Pigs likely to stay on Earls Beach farm

November 26, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

A bitter neighborhood battle over Donald Parlett's pig farm on Bird River will not spawn a new Baltimore County law regulating farm animals.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, had planned to introduce legislation requiring anyone keeping large farm animals in rural waterfront areas to obtain a special zoning exception. But he gave up on the plan because he could not get any support on the council.

That was a relief to the county's farmers, but not for most residents of Earls Beach, a tiny waterfront community in the eastern part of the county that is embroiled in a long-standing fight with Mr. Parlett over the use of his 72-acre farm.

Zoning allows Mr. Parlett to keep pigs on the farm, but those living near the farm have complained that the stench from the pigs can be overpowering.

Lloyd W. Reynolds, president of the county Farm Bureau, said Mr. Parlett has no more than 10 to 12 pigs -- down from more than 800 -- and isn't likely to add any. The market rate for pigs is 41 cents a pound, 9 cents less than is needed to make them profitable, he said.

Speakers representing farm and conservation groups recently spoke against Mr. Gardina's proposal at a public hearing held by the council; Earls Beach residents testified in favor of the measure.

Mr. Reynolds said the Farm Bureau and individual farmers opposed the bill because they were afraid of the precedent of restricting farm animals in farm zones. Farmers are under enough pressure from development as it is, he said. Others argued that it was not right to attack an isolated problem with a law affecting all waterfront rural zones.

Bernard Robier, a retired county police sergeant who heads the Earls Beach Improvement Association, said his group won't be satisfied until all the pig sheds are gone, along with all but three to five pigs.

"If he had three to five, fine, that's for his own table. But 10 to 12? No, that's still commercial," Mr. Robier said.

Mr. Parlett did not return a reporter's phone calls. His father, Alvin Parlett, said he fears that the anger and hurt feelings caused by the dispute cannot be overcome.

Residents have said Donald Parlett was being obnoxious out of spite when he brought the pigs onto his land. He has said residents are trying to deny him the right to earn a living from his land.

The dispute goes back about seven years, when Mr. Parlett and a partner began repairing heavy trucks and excavating equipment on the land after complaining that they could not earn a profit from traditional crops. A resulting battle over the noisy equipment ended with a 1989 court ruling that the equipment violated the farm's zoning. Mr. Parlett appealed and, in December 1989, began raising pigs.

He had as many as 850 pigs by early 1992, when a county District Court judge ordered the animals moved to the part of the farm that is as far from neighboring residences as possible.

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