THOMASVILLE -- A moratorium on construction of poultry houses and other livestock confinement facilities has been extended until Oct. 31.

Thomas County commissioners voted in March to establish a six-month moratorium amid concern about the possibility of large poultry operations setting up shop in unincorporated areas.

The moratorium applied to facilities or structures designed to confine more than 100 birds or other animals.

Currently, a Thomas County ordinance calls for a poultry house to be 1,000 feet from the nearest residence and 500 feet from the nearest property line.

Commissioners voted unanimously this week to extend the moratorium to give officials time to consider amendments to the current ordinance.

Johnny Reichert, director of building, planning and zoning, said concerns revolve around encroachment on existing development, the environment and setbacks. Setbacks might be increased, he added.

"We don't want to stop people from applying for chicken houses," Reichert said Thursday. "We want to bring it up to a higher standard."

The county commission community improvement committee will meet once more to discuss ordinance changes.

"Thomas County's is not the only ordinance that's being amended," Reichert explained.

Two public hearings must be conducted on the new ordinance before it can be considered for adoption.

The first hearing is at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, in the second-floor courtroom at the Thomas County Courthouse. The hearing will take place during a meeting of the county commission-appointed Planning and Land Use Standards Commission.

The second hearing is at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, during a county commission meeting in the second-floor courtroom at the courthouse.

In March, officials said a chicken-processing company was looking for property in Thomas County.

Commission Chairman Josh Herring voiced concern at that time about poultry-processing officials saying they circumvent county ordinances and adhere to rulings of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Herring said local law can supersede state and federal laws.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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