A farmer’s plan for a 20,000-hen egg farm has been delayed a month because neighbors weren’t properly notified of a zoning hearing.

On July 26, the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals tabled action on a variance request by Gideon and Anna Ebersol. They want to start a commercial egg farm on their property, east of town at 12627 Indiana 38. The land is zoned for agricultural use but requires a zoning variance for that many livestock. The town has zoning authority in a two-mile area around it.

WWN Graphic/Mike Emery

Three neighboring property owners at the meeting said they had not received certified mail notifying them of the meeting, as required by law. Building Commissioner Bob Bullock said he did not have signed return cards from the three.

BZA member Wes Shepherd questioned whether the BZA should continue its hearing in light of the faulty notification and later made a motion to table the Ebersol request until Aug. 23, which the board approved. 

Bullock explained that the Ebersols want to build a 55-foot by 520-foot barn for 20,000 hens. They would operate under contract with a company from New York that would send a truck to the farm to collect the eggs each week, in the same manner as at a farm north of Hagerstown. Bullock said that if the zoning board grants the variance, he would require the Ebersols to upgrade their driveway for semis.

BZA members and the nearby property owners asked what the Ebersols would do with waste manure and the chickens that die. They asked how often the barn would be cleaned out.

Ebersol said he would have no problem getting rid of the manure. It would be cleaned out of the barn every time the chicken flock is changed, about every 72 weeks to 84 weeks. He’s already been approached by people who want to buy it for fertilizer. He did not have an answer about how he would dispose of dead birds.

The neighbors said they did not come to the hearing to oppose the plan but had concerns they wanted answered, including odor and its possible effect on their property values.

BZA Chairman Rick Cole and Chris Lane, a BZA member who is also the Jefferson Township trustee, said they have not heard any complaints about the egg farm north of town since it opened several years ago. Both have visited there and described it as clean, quiet and odor free.

The board tabled the proposal until Wednesday, Aug. 23, to correct the notification issue and to hear more information from Ebersol. The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, 49 E. College St. The public may attend.

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A version of this article appeared in the August 2 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.