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Town of Canton allows slaughterhouses

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CANTON — Slaughterhouses soon will be allowed in the town’s rural zones under a zoning change approved unanimously this week by the Town Council.

Following a 50-minute public hearing that drew about 30 people, board members voted 5-0 in favor of revising the town’s zoning code to allow slaughterhouses in rural zones for processing chickens, cows, pigs and other farm animals.

“We’re hoping people see how ag-friendly Canton is and consider bringing jobs and businesses to our community,” Supervisor David T. Button said. “We had several people who spoke in favor of what this can do to boost economic development in the community.”

Safeguards for each project would be established by the town Planning Board, he said.

“The Planning Board can establish any additional guidelines to protect the neighbors. Everything will be handled on a case-by-case basis,” Mr. Button said.

The approval came despite opposition from town Zoning Board Chairman William R. Palmer, who argued that the town already allows slaughterhouses in commercial zones and he doesn’t think it’s necessary to expand that use into rural zones.

Mr. Palmer said he also believes the definition for slaughterhouse included in the amendment is too open-ended because it doesn’t place any restrictions on the type or size of slaughterhouse that will be allowed.

Town law defines a slaughterhouse as “any establishment primarily engaged in commercial abattoir operations and/or meat processing.

Under the new zoning code, each applicant will be required to obtain a special-use permit from the Planning Board. Public hearings will be held for each application.

However, Mr. Palmer said, once the board approves one applicant, it will be difficult to deny others without a legal battle.

He said he believes the town board should have left its zoning code alone and required applicants who want a slaughterhouse to obtain a use variance from the Zoning Board.

“The standard is much higher for a use variance,” Mr. Palmer said. “With a use variance it would be more difficult to put in a slaughterhouse next to a residence.”

Mr. Button said the town has limited space available in its commercial district and the parcels generally are more expensive than rural properties.

It makes sense, he said, to allow slaughterhouses in areas that are close to agriculture.

He said Tri-Town Packing, Brasher Center, is the only meat processor in St. Lawrence County and customers often have to schedule processing months in advance.

Mr. Button said the board does not have any slaughterhouse applications pending at this point.

Renee C. Smith, owner of North Country Pastured LLC, DeKalb Junction, said her mobile livestock processing plant is expected to begin operating in late February.

“A year or so down the road we may build a brick and mortar plant,” she said. “I support the zoning change because I support small entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses.”

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