- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Emotions ran high Tuesday evening during a public hearing the Board of Appeals held regarding a Waldorf slaughterhouse.
Rick’s Place, off Petzold Drive, has been a source of contention for the residents of the privately owned road for some time. In April of last year, the Maryland Independent first reported that residents on the small residential road had raised concerns about the operation.
As the slaughterhouse, owned by Richard and Carol Turner, is situated at the end of the road, some with homes on the road expressed their dissatisfaction with the amount of traffic that the business produces and the state of disrepair that it creates on the dirt-and-gravel surface.
The Turners came before the Board of Appeals on Tuesday seeking three variances to allow the operation of the slaughterhouse.
According to a briefing from Planning and Growth Management staff member Erica Hahn, the Turners’ property is situated on 10.14 acres, whereas the minimum for a slaughterhouse is 20, leading to the Turners’ request for a lot size variance.
The Turners also requested a variance for its location in proximity to the road right of way. The barn that houses the slaughterhouse is 100 feet from the right of way, whereas the minimum is 300. The third variance was requested for the required access to an arterial road, which the property does not have.
As the slaughterhouse is located in the agricultural conservation zone, Hahn said the variances are necessary for its operation. Planning staff recommended that the board grant all variances and that Richard Turner be responsible for fixing potholes on the road and tending to its general maintenance.
Richard Turner said he would be more than happy to tend to the road if necessary, and has done so in years past.
“I have no problem taking care of the road. I’ve put a lot of money into it,” Turner said before the board. “But I don’t want to be solely responsible for it.”
Turner’s statements about his caring for the road were met with derision and doubt from those who would like to see the slaughterhouse moved off the Petzold Drive property.
“The condition of the road has been expressed as appropriate. However, it’s not,” Elizabeth Drive resident Donna Robinson said. “That dirt road ... is more dirt than gravel. It’s gotten progressively worse.”
Robinson, who lives off a road adjacent to Petzold Drive, added that she has only ever seen Turner care for his portion of the road and not the entirety.
“When my kids were growing up, they played on that road,” Robinson said. “It’s not safe anymore. It’s very dangerous for the children with all the traffic.”
Port Tobacco lawyer Roger Fink, who represents seven Petzold Drive residents in opposition to the slaughterhouse, said in a testimony that more than doubled the allotted three-minute time limit that he had “huge objections” to the PGM staff report.
“I think it’s inappropriate on so many levels,” Fink said. “The authority is solely vested in the Board of Appeals. ... This report is replete with finding of facts and conclusions of law, and that isn’t appropriate.”
Fink went on for more than seven minutes before being shut down, drawing applause when he was told he must stop talking by those in favor of the Turners’ business.
Petzold Drive resident James Lawrence stressed that shutting down the slaughterhouse entirely is not anyone’s end goal.
“As the business has grown, so has the animosity. I’ve confronted men who might be armed speeding down the road at 40 miles per hour,” Lawrence said, referring to deer hunters who are among the operation’s clientele. “Is it going to take someone getting shot? My last intention is to get him shut down ... but his business has outgrown our road. He needs to move it to a commercial area.”
Those who were in favor of the slaughterhouse testified to the character of the Turners.
“I support them ... based on living near them and seeing how it’s run,” Petzold Drive resident William Webber said. “Their services are important. I have him process my own deer.”
Webber added that he also has personally seen Turner filling in potholes and caring for the road.
Another Petzold Drive resident, Kim Pinkard, said her reasons for supporting the Turners were simple.
“These are amazing people,” Pinkard said. “I love living next to them.”
An Elizabeth Drive resident, Paul Elbert, added that he felt the road itself was more of an issue than the slaughterhouse, and said he does the bulk of road maintenance, with which Turner has assisted.
Carol Turner’s final appeal to the board was wrought with emotion and frustration.
“We have never done anything to disrespect our neighbors,” Carol Turner said. “If this road was so dangerous, why let your children on it by themselves? I don’t know what personal gain they get from this. All we’ve done is work for our family and our community.”
The Turners could not be reached for further comment on the hearing.
The Board of Appeals ultimately decided to leave the record open for public comment until Feb. 19, and will make its decision at its Feb. 26 meeting.