JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – The first stage of determining where a new meat processing plant will be located was delayed after the Jonesborough Regional Planning Commission failed to declare a quorum.
Commissioners were set to decide between two parcels of land to re-zone to accommodate the plant, but not enough showed up to vote.
Two parcels of land are being considered for the plant. Both are off Highway 11E west of Jonesborough.
One is near the Jonesborough Flea Market, but the other is closer to town right next door to the Eagle’s Nest subdivision.
Residents of the subdivision want nothing to do with the plant moving in next door and hoped to make their voices heard at the meeting.
Both parcels sit outside Jonesborough city limits but are within the regional planning commission’s boundaries. Because of that, the regional planning commission must give a recommendation before final approval by the Washington County Commission.
Dozens of Eagle’s Nest residents came to Tuesday night’s meeting hoping to hear the first of those two decisions, but they left with more fear and frustration about what will come next.
“We’ve been in high anxiety mode since this proposal came to us in the mail, so we’re anxious to get it discussed and closed down,” said resident Vivian Hayward.
Residents are concerned about a number of factors impacting the value of their homes.
“What’s going to happen to our quality of water? Smell, that’s obviously a concern. Noise,” asked resident Lori Smith.
Some also worried about the amount of traffic as more trucks would be in their area bringing animals to the plant.
Area farmers showed immense support for the meat processing plant at previous meetings, including when the Washington County Commission put $2 million in ARPA funding toward the project.
Some commissioners considered it to be a generational investment in the county’s agriculture, allowing meat to be grown and processed locally.
Hayward said she understands that, but the property would directly border her backyard, and that is not the best option.
“They have to sell it somewhere and they have to process it, but of all the places in Washington County behind a residential community is, it’s outrageous actually,” Hayward said.
As for having to wait another month to hear a decision, Hayward said she was disappointed a quorum was not met.
“Needless to say we are all very disappointed in all of it. The whole process has just been kind of a sham,” Hayward said.
In addition to some commissioners, Scot Hamilton, the man applying for the re-zoning, was not present.
Jonesborough Town Attorney Jim Wheeler said he was surprised Hamilton was not in attendance, and said the lack of quorum was due to miscommunication. He said the commission’s chairman and vice chairman were out of town and it was unclear if the meeting would go on as planned beforehand.
Instead, the crowd of Eagle’s Nest residents was informed by Wheeler and Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest about what comes next.
Wheeler said the regional planning commission would likely give its recommendation at its September meeting.
The county commission, of which Wheeler is a member, would then have the final say on which location gets re-zoned. Wheeler said he has a preference.
“The petitioner in this case needs to come to the county commission and be heard, but just in looking at the two locations, looks like the location at the flea market is a much better location,” Wheeler said.
Vest encouraged the residents to come back for future meetings and present their case to both commissions.
Several residents said they hope to be back in larger numbers for those meetings.
Wheeler said the earliest a decision could be made would be at the county commission meeting in late September.