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Local farmer considers de-annexation from city
Zoning prohibits fowl, swine
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Jack Forester was unaware of a city ordinance that prohibits chickens and pigs when he entered into a contract for a 30-acre farm north of Dawsonville.

He also didn't know the property, a foreclosure on Hwy. 9, falls inside the city limits.

While Dawson County allows fowl and swine on property zoned residential agriculture, the city doesn't.

After seeking input about rezoning the project from the Dawsonville City Council last month, Forester is considering de-annexation back into the county.

"I met with the city last week and presented my idea, which is what the mayor said I should do," Forester said. "And his words to me were, ‘I'm sure we can come to an agreement.

"I presented the options in public and was early put in my place that there was no way that they wanted [a farm with chickens and pigs] in their city."

Annexed nearly six years ago, the Hwy. 9 site went into foreclosure earlier this year and was acquired by United Community Bank.

"It's been sitting at R1 [restricted single family residential] since 2005 and the surrounding property has too, with virtually no development," Forester said. "I don't see any developers banging down doors to buy land to develop in this area."

Forester said the site is ideal for a small, self-sustainable family farm where he can teach his children the importance of agriculture.

"We're not looking to have a huge number of animals that the land can't support," he said. "Kids today think food comes from McDonald's or the grocery store, but they really don't know how it's raised.

"We feel that learning how food comes to the table is important, not to mention knowing where it's been grown, what it's been fed, if it's been given growth hormones, those sorts of things."

Forester also plans to use an age old farming technique known as intensive grazing, which allows animals on only a small portion of the pasture while other parts are allowed to recover.

"You start with your cows, which deposit their manure," Forester said. "Then they're moved on to the next pasture and you have different animals, such as sheep or goats, that come in to graze, which have different parasites as cows.

"Then the chickens come in and break that parasite cycle. And it doesn't stink like a farm, because it's been scratched through and spread out and processed by the animals."

James Grogan, mayor pro-tem, said Monday he's not "totally opposed" to Forester's idea "if it's done properly."

"I see what the concept could be. I visited a similar farm in Massachusetts, and they do a really great job there," he said. "I don't want to discourage any business from coming into the area. We need to encourage any new ideas if someone is thinking of something that could help the community."

Grogan said the March 2011 ordinance that prohibits chickens and pigs in the city limits was intended to avoid having agricultural businesses that could be a nuisance to residents.

"At one time, there was a hog farm here and that smell was horrific," Grogan said.

Last week, Forester said he is in talks with county officials to begin the de-annexation process, a new concept for Grogan.

"Just like annexations, anybody can request a de-annexation. It's then up to the city if we approve it or not," he said.

In the meantime, Grogan said he plans to do more research and meet with Forester.