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Commissioners deny slaughterhouse zoning
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A family that has spent more than $50,000 on equipment in preparation of opening a butchery and slaughterhouse on the east side of the county found out last week that their request to rezone their property would not be approved.

Dawson County Commissioners on Thursday unanimously voted against the rezoning of 1.08 acres on Harmony Church Road. The county's planning commission, which makes recommendations on zoning issues to the board, also voted to deny the request a month earlier.

Currently zoned for commercial highway business, a butchery or slaughterhouse would require a commercial industrial restricted zoning, along with a specialty permit, to operate on the property.

Joseph Green, who owns the property, said his family wants to expand their current deer processing business to include slaughtering of live animals for food consumption.

He also said there was miscommunication conveyed to him over the ability to have the business "grandfathered" in regards to zoning regulations.

Years ago the property served the community as a meat processing center for local farmers.

"I feel like we've been cheated. It hurt," he said Monday.

Charlie Tarver, an alternate on the planning commission who lives nearby in the Chestatee community, said the rezoning did not fit the county's future land use plan and would also create a spot zoning within a residential area.

The zoning, he added, would also allow for a variety of businesses such as landfills, bottling or ice manufacturing plants, sawmills, lumberyards and fabrication facilities.

He was among three local residents that spoke in opposition to the rezoning during last week's meeting.

There were also additional concerns over the commercial zoning from the Chestatee subdivision homeowners association.

"We believe that commercial industrial is not the right fit, nor the right spot to drop in such zoning," said Tamara Koperda, association president.

The Greens contend there is a need for their proposed business in the county, which still relies heavily on its agricultural heritage.

"This is a very agricultural based community and we want to bring more power to that," said Haley Green, head butcher and partial owner of the Steel Buffalo Butchery. "Based on the fact that there are no slaughterhouses within 60 miles of Dawson County, it would greatly improve, it would encourage people to become farmers and raise their own meat."

Several neighbors, local farmers and a veterinarian with a specialty in meat science spoke in favor of the Green's rezoning request.

"I've got over a million dollars tied up right across the road from them. That's where I live, and as long as he runs it by USDA [standards], I have no problem with it," said Tim Byrd.

Tim Costley, chairman of the local chamber of commerce's agricultural committee, said the group supports the Green's effort as an agricultural business.

"On a personal side, I was asked this week if I'd want to have this next to my property, and I would say, after touring the facility and seeing their business and how they operate...I would say I wouldn't have a problem at all," he said.

On Monday, Joseph Green said the family has not given up on their dream to expand the business.

"We're trying to figure out where we'll go from here," he said, adding that there are numerous possibilities they plan to explore. "We're considering a meat market and possibly adding a bakery to the mix. When one door closes, we'll look for another to open."

The family also plans to meet with an attorney for legal counsel on the matter, according to Green.