AmericanFarm.com

Appeal coming for Charles Co. meat processor

By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
Managing Editor

WALDORF, Md. — Until a zoning dispute is resolved in Maryland's Court of Special Appeals, Charles County custom meat processor Rick Turner said he's decided to close his Rick's Place butcher shop in the middle of deer hunting season.
“I need some answers,” Turner said last week. “We feel like we’re being discriminated against in the county.”
Opening arguments in Turner’s case, which appeals a lower court's decision that Turner’s business does not meet the needed zoning requirements for the county’s definition of a slaughterhouse, are scheduled for Dec. 2.
The issue before the appeal's court dates back more than two years when nearby residents complained to the county about heavy traffic on the private road leading to Rick’s Butcher Shop and the business was operating improperly. In February 2013, Turner received variances from the Charles County Appeals Board that would allow him to keep processing meat since the property did not meet the county's acreage requirement, set back and access to an arterial road.
Residents appealed the appeals board decision which was reversed by the state's circuit court. Turner then appealed the case to the Court of Special Appeals.
Turner, who has normally refrained from commenting on the case, said repeated visits to his shop by county officials responding to neighbor complaints and mounting legal bills have taken its toll and wanted farmers and hunters in the area to know they would have to find another place to have meat processed until the case is resolved.
“We're just tired of the harassment,” Turner said. “We can't even have a family cookout without somebody from the county coming later to take pictures.”
Last week, a county spokeswoman said, county zoning officials visited the property periodically as protocol in responding to complaints from property owners but could not add any more detail since the case was still open.
Turner started the business in 2002, using money from the tobacco buyout to refurbish a barn on his 10 acre farm to process meat.
The business is listed as one of two customs meat processors in Charles County participating the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program and Turner said he normally donates about 100 deer to the program a year.