ALEXANDRIA, VA – On March 26, 2019, Alexandria City Council approved a live poultry slaughterhouse to be located in a light industrial/commercial area off Duke Street amidst a conflicting storm of opinion.
There were strong protests from neighboring businesses, property owners, and residents as well as stalwart support for its approval.
Owner Abdul Mused of the DC Poultry Market Corporation, operates 14 other locations around the country and using the Islamic Halal method of meat preparation. The 5,245 square-foot building would devote 864 square feet for a waiting and customer interaction area in the shop. Customers would be able to select a chicken in a cage, the chicken would be removed to the processing area, killed, its feathers plucked and then processed by the butcher.
“All meat and poultry we process will be slaughtered strictly in accordance with Islamic rites, where one of the most important prerequisites is the humane treatment of any animal intended for human food,” Mused wrote in the SUP application, adding that the company “believes that concept of Halal involves the whole process of meat production, from the wholesome food feel to the animals in their rearing right through until the meat reaches the consumer.”
At the Council hearing on the subject, Mayor Justin Wilson said, “I thank the community for all of the input that we’ve received. I will admit some of it from every perspective has been extreme in some cases on both sides,” Wilson said. ““For the entire time I’ve been on council there’s never been a use permit that I’ve experienced that’s like this one. The level of public input, the level of attention, and it’s surprising to be honest, especially for one that went through the planning commission unanimously without any public comment.”
“Some City residents came out in support of the slaughterhouse, but when Councilwoman Amy Jackson asked speakers where they resided, the majority of the proponents stated that they lived in Falls Church, Annandale and Baileys Crossroads. They said that they supported the slaughterhouse in Alexandria because it was closer to them and they would not have to travel all the way to Warrenton to get freshly slaughtered poultry,” said a spokesperson for the newly formed Alliance for a Slaughter-Free Alexandria.
The applicant applied for a special use permit to operate the live poultry market slaughterhouse within the industrial zone despite there not being any provisions for such a business within the code. The city’s planning commission recommended granting the permit, and the City’s health department stated that they did not believe that the business presented any public health concerns for animals or people.
Alliance for a Slaughter-Free Alexandria
Neighboring businesses, property owners and residents are still up in arms about the approval of the slaughterhouse, as “many knew nothing about it before it was approved by City Council,” said one spokesperson. Now a grassroots organization called the “Alliance for a Slaughter Free Alexandria” has started an online petition.
Within hours of it going live on May 1, the petition gathered over 200 signatures asking the Alexandria City to rescind its approval of the Special Use Permit (SUP) allowing Saba Live Poultry to operate a commercial slaughterhouse at 3225 Colvin Street.
The petition states the following:
This petition is in opposition to the approved slaughterhouse in Alexandria, Virginia
3225 Colvin Street is located roughly two miles from the Potomac River Waterfront of Old Town, Alexandria. The Colvin Street corridor and the Duke Street-Taylor Run neighborhood includes small commercial and personal services businesses, light industrial uses, schools, restaurants and bakery, retail, sports fields and homes that will be adversely impacted by the operation of a poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, quail, and turkey) slaughterhouse. The City failed to conduct a thorough, complete, and accurate analysis of the deleterious impacts of this use, as described below:
o Mayor Justin Wilson stated publicly that he had, “never seen an application like this come before City Council,” but neither the staff nor the applicant conducted any outreach efforts to the numerous surrounding commercial services establishments, restaurants, retail, and nearby residents.
o City Council approved the SUP without sufficient knowledge, understanding, consideration, or receipt from the applicant of full and complete operational plans, odor and noise reduction plans, waste water generation and management, waste management and removal, emergency operation plans, the number and types of poultry housed and for how long, poultry health inspections and actual number of inspections, impacts from lack of on-street parking and traffic congestion within the corridor.
o The City failed to do its full due diligence by failing to solicit and analyze critical information and data from either the applicant or from state and federal agencies responsible for the regulation and inspection of meat and poultry,
o The City did not conduct a comprehensive review or consult with environmental experts or federal and state agencies on potential environmental impacts to the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and as it relates to the City’s sewer and storm water system. City Council failed to adequately consider the following factors in Section 11-504 of the City’s Zoning Code:
o Whether the proposed use will have any substantial or undue adverse effect upon, or will lack amenity or will be incompatible with, the use or enjoyment of adjacent and surrounding property, the character of the neighborhood, traffic conditions, parking, utility facilities, and other matters affecting the public health, safety and general welfare.
o Whether the proposed use would adversely affect the health or safety of persons residing or working in the neighborhood.
o Whether the proposed use would be detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to property or improvements in the neighborhood.
o Whether the proposed use will substantially conform to the City’s master plan.
o Whether the proposed use will have noise characteristics that exceed the sound levels that are typical of permitted uses in the zone.
o Whether the proposed use will be constructed, arranged and operated so as not to dominate the immediate vicinity or to interfere with the development and use of neighboring property in accordance with the applicable zone regulations.
The Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning, the Alexandria Planning Commission and the Alexandria City Council were derelict in their duties by failing to sufficiently inform the public and nearby businesses that the proposed use included the operation of a full-scale commercial slaughterhouse with delivery, containment, and slaughtering of between 200-500 poultry a day, and was not simply a retail butcher shop. Further, these entities deliberately mischaracterized the city charter and zoning codes by:
o Intentionally failing to use the term “slaughterhouse” in its staff report and public notices, while instead referring to the use as a “retail establishment that processes chickens.”
o Public notice was inadequately posted in front of the building, facing inwards against the fence rather than facing out so as to be legible from the sidewalk. At other times during the required notice period, no notice was posted at all.
o The applicant failed to notify at least one or more adjacent businesses (either the business owner or building landlord) by certified letter as required by the SUP application.
o Initially citing the City Code that regulates the “overnight accommodations” for pet related animal care facilities, as providing the justification for the SUP approval at the public hearing on March 16, the revised staff report presented at the following Council meeting on March 26, cited City Charter section 2.04(m) as justification stating that this section, “allows the City to regulate slaughterhouses,” when in fact the section reads, “regulate or prevent slaughterhouses and other offensive uses.”
o Confusing their deliberations by citing religious justifications for approval and stating (without citing any legal justification) that they had to approve the use or be subject to a federal lawsuit.
o Refusing to consider the 2016 denial by the City Council of Everett, Massachusetts of a similar slaughterhouse proposal submitted by the same applicant. In that case, the Council determined that the owner failed to reveal building and health code violations at its other locations, used unlicensed contractors to construct and install a concrete floor that did not meet code and damaged the building, and that the owner was “less than forthright in their conversations with city employees over process and public hearing requirements, despite the applicant having full knowledge of the process.”
o Refusing to give any weight to Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker’s account of her visit to the applicant’s Philadelphia slaughterhouse in which she described noxious odors emanating from the warehouse and stated that neighboring businesses reported that the smell was “unbearable, horrible, enough to make you gag,” along with words such as “stink” and “stench” and “attracts rats.” She cited Sec. 11-504 and other valid reasons to deny the application.