Adjustments board to decide: a farm or a landfill

Published 9:09 am Friday, August 14, 2015

Is it a farm or a landfill?

Members of the Davie County Zoning Board of Adjustments will face that question Monday even as they hear an appeal from Gallins Family Farm that the composting operation on its Farmington Road property is a landfill – as designated by County Planner Andrew Meadwell.

Meadwell said he went to the property on Feb. 19 and told the operator, Pete Gallins, that it did not meet county zoning regulations and that a rezoning or special use permit would be required. While there is no specific mention of composting in the county’s zoning regulations, Meadwell told county commissioners earlier this summer that the closest use he could find was that of a landfill.

Gallins’ attorney filed an appeal to that claim, and at the 6 p.m. meeting Monday in the commissioner’s room, second floor of the county administration building, members of the adjustments board will hear testimony from both sides of the issue.

Any disagreement with that board’s decision would go to the court system.

William H. Sturges, Gallins’ attorney, filed the appeal on May 12 after an April 23 zoning determination. He wrote that on July 6, County Attorney Ed Vogler contacted him saying he was concerned because the appeal didn’t state the grounds for the appeal.

“This was the first notice of such concern to me, although the appeal was filed about 55 days ago,” Sturges wrote. He pointed out that the county’s ordinance doesn’t state that a reason for appeal must be given. State regulations say that a reason must be given, but the appeal doesn’t have to be limited to that reason.

Sturges filed a new appeal.

“The decision by Mr. Meadwell is in error in classifying Gallins Family Farm’s composting activity as government; landfill. The composting activity constitutes an agri-business use under the Davie County Zoning Ordinance and thus, is permitted as a matter of right in residential agriculture zoning. The Gallins Family Farm and its composting activity constitute a bona fide farm and thus, is exempt form the provision of the Davie County Zoning Ordinance.”

In the meantime, county commissioners will consider in September whether to add composting facilities to its uses in the zoning ordinance. The proposal, according to Gallins, would make it cost prohibitive to conduct such operations. Because the use isn’t listed, current operations such as Gallins’ would not be grandfathered, and would have to meet all new requirements, Meadwell said.

It has been a back-and-forth situation since the beginning of the year, with the county planning board unanimously adopting the proposed ordinance change in April, about a month after the chair of the school board, Chad Fuller, filed a complaint with Meadwell about odor from the operation.

Pete Gallins has said that the Davie County Schools, which is building a new Davie High School adjacent to the family’s property, asked to buy property from him, and he refused. School superintendent, Dr. Darrin Hartness, has said that it was Gallins who offered to sell the schools property, which was refused.

Setting up the board of adjustment meeting hasn’t been smooth, either. The first hearing was scheduled for June 18, but was canceled by the county that same day. Another was set for July 7, and although agreed upon by both parties, was also canceled by the county, Gallins’ attorney said.

Without notifying the Gallins, the meeting was added to a July 20 agenda for the board of adjustments, Sturges said, although he and another attorney had previous commitments and could not make that meeting. At their request, the county moved the date of the hearing to Monday.