Some Wayne County farmers told the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals that a proposed livestock auction is badly needed in the county.
Opponents don’t discount that need, thinking it is a worthy project, they just don’t like the proposed location: the property directly west of The Barn at Helm flower farm and event site on Helm Road south of Williamsburg.
BZA members conducted nearly two hours of public hearing and discussion June 8, but delayed making a final decision. They wanted answers to questions, such as whether two semi trucks could safely pass on Helm Road, and to work out restrictions, such as days and hours of operation, they would put on the auction if it’s allowed.
Applicant Omer S. Kauffman applied for a special exception to allow the livestock auction for the Helm Road land that’s zoned for agriculture. The application asks for operating hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, although auctions are expected biweekly or weekly initially. An auction building with a bidding ring, office area, lunch stand and seating for 300 people, plus an animal barn would be built on the 22-acre site.
The closest current auctions are in Knightstown and Portland, and some county farmers are excited about a local option that’s expected to attract farmers from six surrounding counties and beyond. The location was chosen because the driveway will not be on a main road, but there’s easy access to U.S. 35, Interstate 70 and U.S. 40.
“Our county needs one,” Pat Barker, who farms and has about 100 head of cattle, said of the auction. “I can’t hardly see how it’s a bad thing.”
Another area farmer, Bradley Wood of Greens Fork, said the auction would help him replenish his stock of chickens.
“I see the livestock auction as a positive,” he said.
The Barn at Helm owners Tim and Julie Frame, however, say the auction’s noise and smell would ruin the business’s atmosphere and the buildings would detract from the rural view.
“We built a unique oasis where people pay to come in to pick flowers, to enjoy sunsets to the west, to have a quiet picnic in the gazebo,” Julie Frame said. “Photographers make money by bringing their clients for pictures. People stroll the sunflower fields. We have quiet outdoor weddings.
“We are a unique agritourism site, and we provide an unusual experience for people when they get there.”
The scenic 4-acre site features 80 varieties of flowers. The venue also hosts a handful of concert events each year. Frame said a Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce study showed it attracted 3,000 visitors last year from five states.
“I can’t stress how negatively truck, trailer, animal noise will affect my business,” she said. “The biggest issue I am concerned about is smell. I am downwind from them. …
“We sell an experience at our farm, and customers will not come to stroll our property, photographers will not bring people for pictures, people will not come to pick flowers, propose to their loved ones or come to an occasional music night if it stinks.”
Others who spoke in support of The Barn at Helm said the business adds to the county’s quality of place with a fun place to visit.
Tim Frame said the noise and odor would impact the Frames’ residence as well, thinking it would impact the home’s value.
“This proposed location for the proposed livestock auction is impractical,” he said.
Other neighbors shared concerns about noise and odor, but added concerns about contamination of a creek, property values and traffic. They were not only concerned about trucks and livestock trailers on Helm, but also about the intersections at either end of Helm Road. The Centerville Road intersection has a nearby hill, and the intersection at U.S. 35 is angled.
“No one neighbor should profit at another neighbor’s expense,” said Bill Toedebusch, who owns two nearby properties.
BZA members expressed concerns about the proposed hours, scope and location.
“I think it could be a valuable asset to the county, but I think public welfare is not served by that location,” said member Randy Newman.
After two hours, the board decided to table the matter. Members will receive input from the county engineer about road and intersection concerns and fine-tune commitments that would be required if the auction were to receive its exception.
The board did approve three variances of use on the agenda:
Manufacture of shed kits will be allowed in an existing building on a Treaty Line Road property in Hagerstown zoned rural industrial.
A small bulk-food store and secondhand store with Amish clothing and baby items will be permitted in an existing building at 8421 Clyde Oler Road in Williamsburg zoned agricultural.
Poly furniture made from kits will be sold at a commercial greenhouse business on 3225 Sowers Road in Greens Fork zoned agriculture.
A version of this article appeared in the June 14 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.