- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
At the Charles County Board of Appeals hearing on Oct. 23, it was insisted that a man who kills a few hundred animals a year at his 10-acre property is running a slaughterhouse. I imagine a slaughterhouse as a big, bustling complex with hundreds of animals on-site and multiple guys in white coats standing around with clipboards, with big conveyor belts spitting out shrink-wrapped packages of meat at a dizzying pace.
Everyone at the hearing, including the board, knew that Rick Turnerís business was nothing like that, but the board still determined his business to be a slaughterhouse.
But not to worry, because even though the rules say a slaughterhouse needs at least 20 acres, and access to an arterial road, neither of which Turner has, he need only accept the designation, ask the board for variances on those two issues, and he may continue operations. We know this because Board Chairman Frederick Mower said he ďwasnít in the business of putting people out of businessĒ and didnít want any action taken against Turner while he was preparing his application.
Mower indicated Mr. Turnerís variances would likely be approved if submitted, and at the end of the hearing, some of Turnerís relieved supporters applauded.
Although it appears that Rickís Place will be allowed to continue, the details revealed at the hearing drove home yet again how stupid, inadequate and economically restrictive our zoning system is.
First off, some might wonder why Turner had to accept the slaughterhouse designation instead of being, say, a butcher shop. The answer is that Rick Turnerís property is zoned agriculture conservation, and butcher shops arenít allowed in an AC zone, only in commercial zones. One board member said that Mr. Turnerís services didnít fit the agricultural zone because they are commercial in nature. I guess she doesnít think farmers sell the things they grow and raise.
Others might wonder why he had to be categorized at all because he doesnít really fit in any category.
The answer is that the zoning regulations are so inflexible that he must be forced into a category.
In the words of inspection and enforcement official Reed Faasen, ďIf itís not on the list, itís not legal.Ē However, the zoning ďtechnicianĒ from Mr. Faasenís ďcustomer friendlyĒ department was authorized by law to save the day by performing the highly technical act of simply putting Turnerís business ďin the next closest useĒ on the list a slaughterhouse.
However, forcing a manís livelihood into a classification that doesnít fit him, just because there isnít an accurate description of what he does on some government list, is sorely misguided. I do not know the future implications for Mr. Turner with either state or federal laws, and I donít think the board knows either.
Did they check to make sure that there isnít (or wonít soon be) a state or federal rule that says if the county officially calls Rickís Place a slaughterhouse, then the state or feds must call it that too, and suddenly require upgrades or changes that he canít afford? Or is that type of checking just another job for Mr. Turnerís attorney to do?
To me the lesson is this: Real people do not always fit into the categories that planners concoct. No list could ever describe all the innovative ways that 100,000 free people might discover to provide a good or service. We need to stop depending on such inadequate lists. Also, if jobs matter, we should realize that forcing everyone to ďget legalĒ with a license, and a permit, in the proper zone, actually restricts job growth because it increases business start-up costs.
In this environment, businesses are slow to form, hard to relocate and hard to repurpose if relocation isnít an option all of which makes it hard to adjust to changing economic conditions.
I understand that some folks believe very strongly in all this planning, zoning and regulation, and thatís their right, but they canít at the same time say that they are doing all they can to create jobs.
Tom deSabla, La Plata