State Considers Streamlining Chicken House Permitting

7/20/2013 7:00 AM
By Chris Torres Regional Editor

Building a chicken house could get a little easier and less expensive in the state of Maryland.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is working on modifying stormwater management permitting for building chicken houses, which representatives of the Eastern Shore’s poultry industry say will make building chicken houses cheaper and less time consuming.

A meeting was held July 11 at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury, Md., where more than 60 government officials and poultry industry representatives showed up to hear about the state’s plans.

The state’s stormwater management regulations, which were put into law a few years ago and apply to land disturbance activities of more than 5,000 square feet, require the approval of a stormwater management plan to address stormwater runoff before a development project can move forward. It includes the use of various best management practices to minimize environmental impacts.

Counties are responsible for issuing stormwater management permits that meet minimum state requirements.

But Satterfield said that some counties have gone above and beyond the state requirements, treating poultry operations the same as they would a shopping mall or large-scale housing development. He said that in some cases, it’s added between $15,000 and $20,000 in costs per house for growers to complete a project.

Around 39 chicken houses have been built in the state so far this year. By comparison though, Satterfield said 64 chicken houses have already been built in neighboring Delaware.

“It just got so expensive, a lot of people weren’t even bothering to build chicken houses in Maryland,” he said, adding that the average cost to build a chicken house in Maryland is around $350,000.

In 2011, the state issued a “standard plan” for poultry house site development, which counties can use as guidance for approving poultry house construction projects.

At the July 11 meeting, state officials discussed further streamlining the plan to make it simpler for growers to get a stormwater management permit. A modified plan was released by the Maryland Department of the Environment in April.

“The feedback that we got back (was) that this was a good meeting,” Satterfield said. “It was an educational meeting. It provided some guidance on how to interpret the MDE standards.”

Rick Pollitt, county executive of Wicomico County who helped organize the meeting, said he was pleased with the state’s ideas and hopes it will cut the “red tape” for growers to get the necessary permitting for constructing chicken houses.

He said the county is looking to hire a private agricultural consulting company to assist growers in getting the permitting they need to get projects moving.

“From all indications, it looks like the state has come a long way to develop a consistent and workable template. I was very pleased,” Pollitt said.

Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Midshore, said some counties in his senatorial district, which includes Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico counties, have required poultry operators to put in the same type of retention ponds and other practices required of developers of shopping centers.

“Therefore, it made it financially and economically impossible and very time consuming,” for growers to build new chicken houses, Colburn said.

He was at the July 11 meeting and said he supports the state’s plan for modifying stormwater management permitting.

“We have tried to come up with a template, a standard, that meets the threshold of the Maryland Department of the Environment, that everybody can use and bring them on board,” Colburn said.

Matt Teffeau of Maryland Farm Bureau, said construction delays increase costs for producers since bank interest rates fluctuate and construction costs tend to increase from year to year.

“It’s about streamlining the process to get approvals going before rates go up. It gets all of the counties on the same page,” Teffeau said.

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