A plan for an egg farm has been delayed for a third month by the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals.

The BZA conducted a public hearing about Gideon and Anna Ebersole’s request for a zoning variance that would allow them to house up to 20,000 chickens in a large barn they would build on their property at 12627 Indiana 38, east of town. The Ebersoles would contract with a New York-based company that would own the hens, paying the Ebersoles to feed and care for them and harvest their eggs. The company would send a truck for the eggs once a week.

The hearing originally had been scheduled in July but was postponed then and again in August over questions about proper notification of neighboring property owners.

Several nearby property owners showed up at Town Hall on Sept. 20, and three had questions for Gideon Ebersole and the BZA. 

One, Jeremy Spicer, asked about plans for manure and waste disposal, including dead chickens. Ebersol said he will have a contract for waste disposal with a company that will sell it for fertilizer. Dead birds will be composted, as on other egg farms.

WWN Graphic/Mike Emery

Spicer also asked about odor and soil and water contamination. The zoning board said it does not regulate those factors; the Indiana Department of Environmental Management would respond to complaints about contamination and odor.

BZA members Rick Cole and Chris Lane said a similar operation north of Hagerstown has produced no complaints from neighbors who had similar concerns before it opened several years ago.

 Tressa Wallace, another neighbor, asked if there is any way to know how the plan would affect property values in the area. BZA members said they know of no way to predict that. 

Building Commissioner Bob Bullock reminded all that the land there has been zoned for agriculture uses for many years. The Ebersoles have a right to farm it. The issue before the BZA is whether they should be allowed to have up to 20,000 birds, which is more than the zoning ordinance permits without a variance.

Neighbor Richard Heaston showed a map of the area and neighboring properties. He said the length of the barn would extend behind three neighboring lots. He asked if it could be moved to another location on the Ebersoles’ property.

Gideon Ebersole said that animal cruelty standards require the egg company to provide a certain amount of open space on all sides of the barn where the chickens will be allowed to roam during daylight hours. He did not know whether the egg company would consider changing the location.

The BZA then tabled consideration of the proposal, asking Ebersole to contact the egg company to ask if the building could be changed. They also asked him to ask a representative from the egg company to attend the next meeting. The BZA will advertise a meeting date when it has been set. 

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A version of this article appeared in the September 27 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.