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Turkey farm rules at center of debate

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CLARKTON -- A turkey farm is the focus of a Columbus County debate. An issue at hand is a change in rules concerning how close turkey houses can be built to property lines. Since 2002, Columbus County livestock rules stated a turkey house has to be at least 200 feet away from surrounding property lines. When Earl Wilson built four turkey houses in October, he said he didn't know about those rules. He said, "We went and asked at the county office but everybody told us that they're agricultural buildings, all you need is an electrical permit." He obtained that permit and built two turkey houses less than 200 feet away from nearby undeveloped property. After the violation was brought to the attention of the County Health Department, members voted to change the rule to 50 feet away. Luke Elkins owns the undeveloped adjoining property on which he says he was planning to build. He said, " Fifty feet is not very far for a commercial building to be built with 32,000 turkeys at 50 feet from your property line, it's just not right." Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith said board members feel the turkeys pose little to no health threat. However, she acknowledges the board made a mistake. She said, "Anytime that the Board of Health has rule changes, they adopt a rule, amend, or rescind a rule, you have to have public notice of ten days and we did not do that in this case." Now the board is holding a series of meetings and will vote again about the rule. But Luke Elkins says the damage is already done. He said, "What we're concerned now about is the future, making the right decisions for the other landowners."

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