- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County Board of Appeals voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve all requested variances for a hotly contested Waldorf slaughterhouse, allowing the business to remain open.
In February, the appeals board held a public hearing for county citizens to voice their opinions on Rick’s Place, located at the end of Petzold Drive. At the meeting, passions rose as both sides expressed their concerns. In the middle of the meeting in a brief closed session, a decision was made to keep the record open for seven days after the public hearing. The record was closed at Tuesday evening’s meeting, during which the Petzold Drive property was the only item on the agenda.
The variances requested were for acreage — as Rick’s Place operates on 10 acres of land and the minimum is 20 — location in proximity to the nearest road right of way and access to an arterial road.
Almost all board members spoke in favor of Rick’s Place. Board member Brendan Moon described it as “the most complicated case to come before the board over the course of my term.”
In his evaluation of the case, Moon also said the use of Petzold Drive, a privately owned nonarterial residential road, seemed to be the “only controversial aspect” in the case, and pointed to the “unclear” legal status surrounding its operation. Moon said he supported the approval of all variances on the condition that the operation be used for meat processing only and not to hold live animals prior to slaughter.
Board member Jean Schappet said she considered owner Richard Turner to be “both a good steward of the property and the access easement that they’re granted, and they’ve maintained that with integrity for 10 years.”
“Though they are not in compliance with the terms of these variances ... they’ve maintained a good business posture throughout the entire history of their business and, in doing so, I think, stand themselves in good stead to be afforded the three variances they need to comply with the requirements of the special exception,” Schappet added.
The sole board member to voice objections was Vice Chairwoman Natalie McKinney.
“The way I see it from the review of the evidence, it seems this business has somewhat outgrown the neighborhood. I look at it as more commercial than anything,” McKinney said. “It’s just too much to handle in a residential area.”
McKinney ultimately voted in favor of all three variances.
Chairman Luke Hannah said he had given the matter a lot of consideration between hearings and felt that classifying the business as a slaughterhouse “puts it in an unfair category for what Mr. Turner does.” Hannah went on to say he favored approving all three variances.
The board approved all three motions, drawing applause from the crowd.
Petzold Drive resident Ray Johnston, an opponent of the slaughterhouse, declined to comment Wednesday afternoon, citing advice from his lawyer, Port Tobacco attorney Roger Fink. Johnston said that he and the six neighbors that Fink represent are not willing to let the matter drop so easily.
Richard Turner declined a request for comment Tuesday evening after the meeting and did not return later calls for comment.