Harold Scrimgeour is just one of many residents who wants to have a say in the structures that get built around his neighborhood. Most recently, he partnered up with neighbors in his quaint Foxchase subdivision to purchase a vacant farm across the street from his home. His reasoning was very simple — he wanted to prevent the land from agricultural development, specifically, chicken farms.
Scrimgeour owns thousands of acres of land across the Delmarva Peninsula, and although he declined to provide specifics about the number of residents that were in on the deal, he claims it was a “minority.” The deal, which amounted to a total of $440,000, officially closed on May 1.
“The goal was to be not anti-poultry at all, but to be anti-placement,” he told Delmarva Now. “We tried to control the profits instead of being portrayed as crybabies at the end.”
John Seipp is an attorney based in Salisbury. His self-built home is located on the proximity of Foxchase’s southern entrance. It’s also adjacent to the land, which totals almost 100 acres. Seipp wrote up the official deed, which legally restricts both current and future owners from constructing any sort of mass animal-feeding structure anywhere on the property.
“One of our main vistas is looking east, and that would be looking right at that farm,” Seipp said. “Seeing all that metal and those chicken houses would have been disgusting.”
Seipp has a good point — curb appeal is a big factor in determining home value. While, according to realestate.com, landscaping can raise a home’s value up to 12%, eye sores like chicken farms can cause home values to plummet.
Although this particular piece of property won’t see an industrial chicken farm for the indefinite future, there are thousands of acres of land across the Delmarva Peninsula that have been the homes of large chicken farms. And while smaller, household chicken farms require just a 12 by 12 inch box for a chicken to lay her eggs, larger operations require bigger houses that can measure up to 60 by 600 feet. Not only that, but it’s not uncommon for developers to construct houses in groups of seven or more. That’s why residents like Scrimgeour and Seipp are protesting the construction of poultry operations so adamantly.
Aside from the aspect of curb appeal, there are plenty of other reasons to oppose these constructions. The complaints cited most frequently are unpleasant odors and too much traffic from large trucks. Each year, approximately 16,000 chemical spills occur from trucks, trains, and storage tanks — often when materials are being transferred — and it’s no secret that large chicken operations inevitably mean mass quantities of supplies and transportation.
Worst of all, there are many concerns about the potential for groundwater contamination due to the excess number of chickens residing in such a small space. Despite the fact that according to the Water Quality Association, more than four out of 10 Americans use a home water treatment unit, adding another possibility for contamination is a risk that many residents refuse to take. Drinking contaminated tap water can lead to all kinds of illnesses, and medical assistance can be hard to come by during odd hours, considering that only 29% of primary care doctors offer after-hours coverage.
However, this incident seems as though it’s one of the first of its kind — one where citizens from all walks of life collaborated to reach a common goal.
“We haven’t seen anything exactly like this. It could be a precedent,” said Kate Patton, executive director of the Lower Shore Land Trust. “We want to see agriculture, but I think we also have to recognize that we’re working with the community, and there may be certain areas where it makes sense and other areas where it doesn’t.”
Ultimately, Scrimgeour feels confident about his and the neighborhood’s decision.
“I thought it was a good idea to control our own destiny as a neighborhood,” he said.