Washington County commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday on a rezoning application to create a regional meat processing plant on property abutting the back of Grandview Elementary School.
The application is made for 5 acres of land on Blalock Road, which is owned by the John Abe and Vickie Teague Living Trust. Teague said he, his wife and other supporters of the new Appalachian Producers’ Cooperative hope the property will soon become the site of a closed facility to process beef, pork, mutton and goats raised. locally.
“This rezoning and processing facility will impact our ability to provide food security, jobs and sustain agriculture for our farmers,” said Teague, a grass-fed beef producer who is asking that the property be rezoned from its current status A-1 (agriculture) to M-2 (manufacturing). “For Vickie and me, investing in the future of our farmers and those who follow us is a no-brainer.”
Teague’s property is also close to the Washington County Industrial Park, where officials continue to work on a plan to create new access to the park from Blalock Road.
However, at least one member of the Washington County Board of Education hopes county commissioners will delay a decision on rezoning until they hear from school officials, parents who have children enrolled in the school of Telford and residents who live near the site.
“Some of us are concerned about the property’s proximity to Grandview School,” said Mary Beth Dellinger, who represents the community on the school board. “I am concerned about noise, traffic and odors that may come from the facility.”
Planning Commission approves rezoning
Some of those same concerns were voiced at the Washington County Planning Commission before that panel voted Jan. 4 to send the rezoning application to the County Commission with its blessing. Planners heard from Rick Mull, 138 Blalock Road, who expressed concern about the proximity of the proposed treatment facility to the school and his home.
He and David Trowbridge, 100 E. Shanks Road, also questioned the impact of the facility on traffic in the area.
County Commissioner Freddie Malone, who sits on the planning board, moved a motion that later failed by a 2-2 vote to postpone the matter until next month so planners could consult with industrial park officials. Malone said he also would have liked to see the county school board speak out on the matter.
“I’m not opposed to the concept of a meat processing plant, but my question is location,” he told reporters last week. “Is this the right place? We don’t want people coming up to us 20 years from now and asking, “Why did you let them put this here?” »
Malone voted with colleagues on the Planning Commission to forward Teague’s rezoning application to the County Commission after requesting that the petitioner speak to Jerry Boyd, the county’s superintendent of schools, about the project, discuss the impact that the processing facility could have on the industry park with Alicia Summers, vice president of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, and develop a schedule for road improvements from Blalock Road to US Highway 11E.
Meeting a regional need
Local government and agriculture officials, including state Rep. Rebecca Alexander, R-Jonesborough, have been discussing the need for a meat processing plant in the area for more than a year. The Appalachian Resources, Conservation and Development Council, which is the governing partner of the Appalachian Producers Cooperative, said in its recent annual report that local meat producers have “experienced extremely long wait times in processing facilities or chose to ship their cattle to the Midwest for finishing and processing.
The council also said the facility is expected to “create 25 new jobs in Washington County and provide local residents with access to locally raised and processed meats.”
Teague and other rezoning supporters said the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing supply chain disruptions have heightened the need for a regional meat processing facility.
“This is our best opportunity to have a local protein processing facility,” said Teague, who served as retired Congressman Phil Roe’s former district manager and is currently a member of the District Elections Committee. Washington County.
Teague said his Blalock Road property has access to all the essential utilities a meat processing operation needs. He said plans call for a 9,000 to 10,000 square foot gated building to be constructed on the site overlooking Blalock Road.
He said the structure will be based on “high-end” meat processing facilities like those members of the co-op have visited in other regions. Teague said he visualized the facade of the building to look more like a country store.
“There will be no visible signs that this is a meat processing plant,” Teague said. “There will be no smell and little noise.”
Teague said there shouldn’t be any traffic issues associated with the surgery either. He said farmers would bring their animals to the facility by appointment only, with a maximum of 60 “humanely treated” animals at the facility each month.
The promoters also claim that the operation will be certified and inspected regularly by the United States Department of Agriculture.