Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 9, 2016

PA Appeals Court Holds Proposed Commercial Poultry Facility Was Within Ordinance’s Definition of Agriculture and was Permitted as of Right

In its poultry barns, Balady Farms, LLC raised chicks for approximately five to six weeks, at which time they were transported off-site for processing and public sale/consumption. At any given time, there were approximately 28,000 chickens on the Property. In this case, Balady Farms, LLC appealed from the York County Common Pleas Court’s order affirming Paradise Township Zoning Hearing Board’s interpretation of the Township’s Zoning Ordinance to prohibit Balady Farms from operating a commercial poultry processing facility.

The Board ruled that in determining whether Balady Farms’ proposed use was permitted the use also had to be “consistent with the procedures that are normally engaged by farmers in the Township.” However, the court rejected the Board’s imposition of this requirement, citing Section 202 of the Zoning Ordinance, which stated “the term ‘agriculture’ includes an enterprise that implements changes in production practices and procedures or types of … livestock or livestock products … produced consistent with practices and procedures that are normally engaged by farmers or are consistent with technological development within the agricultural industry.” The court found that the term “includes” denoted that the Ordinance further defined the term, rather than created an additional requirement as the Board contended. In the absence of such restriction, the fact that other Township farmers sent their livestock off-site for processing did not limit Balady Farms’ right to process chickens on the Property.

Furthermore, Chapter 3 of the Agriculture Code, commonly referred to as the Agricultural Communities and Rural Environmental Act (ACRE or Act 38), was found to similarly restrict “local regulation of normal agricultural operations,” as defined in Section 2 of the Right to Farm Act. The court found its interpretation of the term “agriculture” used in the Ordinance in this case was consistent with these statutes intended to protect the Commonwealth’s agricultural operations. Accordingly, the court held that Balady Farms’ proposed “addition of a chicken processing facility for chickens raised and bred on the farm,” fell within the Township’s definition of “agriculture” and was therefore permitted as of right in the Township’s RC District. As such, the court reversed the Board’s erroneous interpretation, and the trial court’s order.

Balady Farms, LLC v. Paradise Township Zoning Hearing Board, 2016 WL 5724905 (PA Commwlth 10/4/2016)

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