Despite neighbors concern, planning commission
recommends approval of rotational grazing dairy
By John M. Ayers
The Gilchrist County Planning Commission held their monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 28 to consider four applications for change of use on both resident and commercial properties in the county. The application for a Special Use Permit involving a development of Major Impact by Ron St. John and Piedmont Farms drew the most interest as residents in the neighborhood of SW 32nd Place were concerned that the rotational grazing dairy would impact them with additional problems concerning traffic, flies and odors.
Taylor Brown, Gilchrist County Planning Director, presented the application DMI-SUP 09-03 to the four members of the committee attending the meeting. The property involving 640 acres of A-2 zoned agriculture land lies south of SW 32nd Place. The property is currently under cultivation under a row crop practice. The property has four center pivots systems that serve to irrigate the crops during the growing season. The county planner presented the staff analysis involving the positive impacts of the proposed agriculture land use change. Brown explained that the change would increase local tax revenues both directly through the increase of property and business taxes as well as indirectly involving the payment of the six to eight employees the operation is reported will employ. Brown explained the proposed change is in keeping with the Gilchrist County Vision, which is very supportive of agriculture activities.
Ron St. John addressed the committee to explain the operation concerning this rotational grazing dairy. He pointed out that the Bahia and Bermuda grasses would be grown under the pivot systems where a portion of the herds would be separated and grazed on 8-acre parcels. The pivot systems would be operating to cool the cows with 72º water as well as feeding the needed grasses water in the grazing paddocks. This type dairy is designed to feed the cows twice a day with a feed that does not contain silage. St. John explained there would be no silage on this dairy. He told the committee that in studies conducted when cows are fed silage, they have tendencies to not graze the pastures like they should. A small milking parlor will be constructed on a one-half-acre parcel centrally located to milk the estimated 1200 to 1400 head of cows. St. John, the managing partner, explained that the cows would be spreading an estimated 85% of their manure in their grazing areas. As the cows are being milked an estimated 15% of the manure they produce will be washed into a concrete holding tank that is spread back onto a non-grazed parcel of pasture where hay will be cut. St. John explained that this design of dairy operation is very neighborhood friendly.
Committee chairman Alan Mikell opened the meeting to allow the public to address the board involving this application. Bobby Cruse, a resident and property owner in the neighborhood of the identified site explained that the proposed dairy is causing great concern among the residents. He told the board that the water quality has gotten so bad that they are drinking bottled water. He pointed out that his well has gone dry and a second well has now become a great concern. The flies and odors with the proposed dairy are causing the property owners to be concerned that the values of their property will be negatively affected.
Maryann Bass, a resident in the area, told the board that they are currently impacted by a large fly problem and the odors from the existing property use is bad enough. She is concerned that the proposed dairy will only make the current problems worse.
Ron St. John told the residents that if the dairy application is approved, within two years he would reduce the current problems that they are experiencing.
Marsha Anglin, a property owner and resident on SW 32nd Place, told the board that she too is concerned involving the issues that other residents have already expressed to the committee. She also pointed out that the traffic during certain times of the year runs all night with large trucks going in and out of the property. “With the proposed dairy on this property, will these problems only get worse?” she asked.
Charlie Smith, the chief financial officer for St. John’s dairy operations, invited the residents to accompany him on a tour of South Pointe Dairy, an existing rotational grazing dairy that is operating in Levy County south of Chiefland.
David M. “Duke” Lang told the board that he too was an adjoining property owner and he was concerned about the entrance road to the proposed dairy.
The planning committee discussed the application before board member Craig Watson made a motion to approve the application with the identified conditions. Michelle Crawford agreed and gave a second to the motion. The board recommended approval as they voted 4/0 in favor of submitting the application on to the Gilchrist County Commission. The County Commission is expected to hear the proposed application in a future meeting in late June or July.
The Planning Commission, seated as the Board of Adjustment, also heard a request for a Special Exception from Bailey Farms, Inc. represented by Larry F. Grant. He is seeking approval to allow the processing, storage and sale of agriculture products that are not grown on the premises bordering CR-334. David M. Lang represented the applicant to identify several issues involving the application.
The Gilchrist County Commission sent this application to the Board of Adjustment recommending approval with conditions.
The committee following a lengthy discussion approved the application 4-0 with identified conditions involving traffic signage, and times of operation at this facility.