The Zoning Board of Appeals during its May 3 meeting delayed voting on a controversial permit to allow a chicken farm equipped with a slaughterhouse to operate on Tranquility Drive.
After more than three hours of impassioned debate at the packed meeting at Samuel Staples Elementary School, board members voted unanimously to put the decision on hold until May 17.
Four residents living on and near Tranquility Drive appealed to the board to reject a permit approved last year by Philip Doremus, Easton’s zoning enforcement officer, to build a 10-by-10 slaughterhouse with a sink and separate 1,500-gallon polyethylene tank, a tool shed, and two chicken coops at 59 Tranquility Drive.
Residents are concerned about noxious odors and the effect on their property values if the slaughterhouse is allowed to operate. Some 70 residents have signed a petition arguing that a commercial chicken farm equipped with a slaughterhouse is not a permitted use in a residential neighborhood.
Charles Willinger, the attorney representing the residents who filed the appeal, submitted 19 exhibits to the board at the meeting, arguing the permit for the slaughterhouse was approved as an accessory use to the principal residential use of the property, which is not allowed under local zoning regulations.
“This would rip the guts out of any residential neighborhood and this can’t be allowed,” Willinger said.
Andrew Blum, the permit holder, last year purchased the three-acre lot on Tranquility Drive for $183,000 and then placed the property in a trust named the Connecticut State Police Barracks Trust.
Blum, who didn’t attend the meeting but was represented by two attorneys, said he agrees that a slaughterhouse is not a permitted accessory use to a residence, but it is a permitted use to a farm. He said Easton’s zoning regulations allows for a residence and a commercial farm to operate on the same property because the town allows more than one principal use on a property.
“Easton is the only town that I researched that allows for more than one principal use per property,” Blum said. “There is no question that I’m establishing a second principal use on the property. ”
Blum is from Trumbull and moved into a 1,200-square-foot house he had built on the property with the town’s zoning department approval last year. His intention is to run a chicken farm on the property with about 170 free range chickens whose eggs he’ll sell at farm stands and meat to restaurants.
Beth Saunders, an Easton resident and licensed Realtor, warned at the meeting that a slaughterhouse could negatively affect Easton.
“To be known as a farming town with animal farms, tree farms, and fruit and veggie farms on acres of lush land is attractive to buyers,” she said. “However, a slaughterhouse operating in a residential neighborhood is and will detrimentally reduce the property values and desirability of the affected neighborhood.”
Joe Calzone, a Tranquility Drive resident, took issue at the meeting with the town’s zoning board members’ lack of transparency about the slaughterhouse. He questioned why town officials didn’t contact neighbors about the permit.
“Would not a permit for a slaughterhouse raise a concern that perhaps neighbors in the proposed area should be advised?” he said. “There have been far less egregious issues posted in the minutes of zoning board meetings which were addressed, yet this one skated through.”