Sussex County’s Board of Adjustment earlier this week unanimously approved poultry company Allen Harim’s plan for a deboning facility in Millsboro, despite residential opposition.
Allen Harim will move forward with a plan to debone and repackage chicken at the old Vlasic pickle plant in Millsboro that they purchased in 2014.
Members of the Board of Adjustment said the heavy industrial use won’t substantially affect nearby properties and state environmental officials have the authority to monitor the operation.
Millsboro resident Jay Meyer lives across the road from the site and says many of his neighbors’ wells are already contaminated. He’s disappointed in the decision but says it wasn’t unexpected.
“The big poultry industry has a lot of say in this particular area as far as what gets done and what doesn’t get done,” Meyer said.
Meyer also lives across the river from Mountaire Farms’ Millsboro plant, and says he and nearby residents aren’t pleased to have another poultry neighbor.
“Once [Allen Harim] gets their foot in the door with this deboning operation, then the next thing, ‘now do this, and now we’re gonna do that,’ and the next thing you know there’s going to be a full-fledged processing site right directly across from us,” Meyer said.
Maria Payan, a regional consultant with the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, said she turned in a health assessment on the impacts of the former Vlasic site within a two-mile radius, that she felt was not considered by the board. The assessment showed this is an environmental justice community “overburdened with pollution."
“To totally disregard that these folks are overburdened with pollution, poor health – to me – I can’t even believe that we’re considering this,” Payan said.
The deboning operation will occupy about 50,000 square feet of Allen Harim's 460,000 square foot building – about 10 percent of Allen Harim’s new corporate headquarters in Millsboro.
In a December 2017 statement, Allen Harim CEO Joe Moran said the facility would create about 165 jobs in Millsboro and spur economic activity.
“This is work that’s already being done outside of the state and we’re excited to be bringing that work back to Delaware,” Moran said in 2017.
In an emailed statement on the Board of Adjustment approval, Moran reiterated the job growth and also said, “with our new corporate headquarters moving to Millsboro, this is a great mixed-use concept for the building.”
The company still has not finalized a construction timeline for the facility.