DUNBARTON — When Tom Giovagnoli presents his site plan to build a 27,000-square-foot barn for 20,000 egg-laying chickens on his Twist Hill Road property, he said he will bring professional supporters of the project, "to help educate abutters and the town."
The planning board will revisit Giovagnoli's application on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m., at the Dunbarton Community Center, 20 Robert Rogers Road, to address Giovagnoli's proposal, and neighbors are hoping the board will take their concerns seriously and reject the plan.
Many Twist Hill Road property owners said they are against the plan because it will decrease their property values, diminish their quality of life, cause environmental issues, and impact water quality and quantities.
Abutter Anthony Pino, of 99 Twist Hill Road, said the project could also affect wildlife in the area. He said the planning board should reject Giovagnoli's project, citing Environmental Protection Agency documents, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996 and the Clean Water Act.
"The Environmental Protection Agency noted negative impacts on drinking water supplies, rivers and streams and also air quality," Pino said. "We as citizens have the right to clean water and safe drinking water. The proposed project location near wetlands raises immediate concerns to my safety and health (of) the citizens of Dunbarton."He also said air quality problems have been associated with emitted gases from animal waste decomposition.
"Hens produce ammonia, a toxic form of nitrogen in their waste which is released as a gas during waste disposal. These gases can be carried for more than 300 miles through the air," Pino said. "Air quality problems have been associated with these emitted gases from decomposition of animal waste. These air pollutants can also cause respiratory inflammation and increase vulnerability to asthma. There could be potential loss to existing wildlife and increase in rodent population."
Pino and other abutters are also concerned about their property values.
"I have contacted both a residential and commercial appraiser. I have also had a Realtor's input as well. All have been very negative. My residential appraiser stated, 'He would write letters to God if this were to happen to me,' and told me there is no question of course values will go down; still waiting for comparison data," Pino said.
Jaye Rancourt, of 80 Twist Hill Road, has also contacted an appraiser and was told it is hard to do market comparisons.
"It is very difficult to calculate the exact decrease in our property values in that there are no comparisons in this area," Rancourt said. "No other town has allowed an industrial egg farm in residential neighborhoods to create some comparisons. However, the prevailing understanding is that property values will decrease due to sight, sound and odor."
Raising certified organic hens, Giovagnoli said, is his intention.
"To be certified organic, they have to be well treated," he said. "They'll be cage free, that's the difference. Every bird has to have its own space. For 20,000 chickens all I need is 3,000 square feet, but the barn is big enough to put in 40,000 birds."
His plan is to raise the chickens using a standard layer box method, which also stores the chickens' manure and diminishes odors, he said.
"The manure is pulled twice a day so the chickens stay clean. There's a roof over the manure and it stays in the barn until you're ready to sell it," he said. "Some of the organic farmers are ecstatic about it. The eggs are the main product, but the manure is a commodity because of its high nitrogen content. They're all knocking my door down to get it."
Giovagnoli said his neighbors will "not see the barn from the road, you won't see it or smell it. I just wish they'd listen and try to understand. At the end of the day, they won't know it's there."
But Rancourt and others have their doubts.
"Given that the proposed buffer is comprised of deciduous trees, the buffer does not create a sufficient buffer from sight, sound or odor," Rancourt said. "There has been insufficient study regarding the depletion of water from the water table. We have no idea if the water table will support this farm. The report submitted by Mr. Giovagnoli's engineer fails to provide sufficient information on the water table issue as well as numerous other issues."
Giovagnoli said at the Oct. 16 planning board meeting, UNH professor and agricultural specialist John Porter, a representative from Pete and Gerry's egg facility, Jennifer McCourt, and a representative from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Concord will be available to answer residents' questions.