West Columbia officials are giving a chicken processing plant more time to stop odors before they crack down on the stench.
“We’re pushing it off for a while to see if they can come up with a solution for the problem,” Mayor Bobby Horton said of proposed limits on odors.
City Council members gave initial approval Oct. 16 to a set of restrictions on “offensive” odors that disturb residents. They were set to give final approval next Tuesday but that is on hold for a few months, Horton said.
The plan would allow fines of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail if an odor “annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others.”
The House of Raeford is looking at more steps to prevent the smell from disturbing nearby neighborhoods after making other changes in operations since May to reduce problems, company spokesman Dave Witter said.
“We continue to work with consultants to achieve the best possible solutions,” he said.
Complaints about odors from the 60-year-old plant on the Congaree River are increasing as new neighborhoods and businesses develop nearby. West Columbia’s Riverwalk also has become popular with walkers, joggers and others.
City leaders worry that redevelopment of the area will be stymied by a plant producing 281 million pounds of meat a year.
Some residents are pushing for restrictions to encourage the company to move. Mill Village resident Jennifer Moons Boyd is willing to accept the temporary delay on adoption of odor restrictions, but added “ultimately, we don’t want them to be there any more.”
The North Carolina-based company wants to be a good neighbor as it deals with residential and commercial growth around the plant, Witter said.
House of Raeford, which has owned the plant since 1998, isn’t interested in leaving the 1.5-acre site.
With 800 employees, it’s the largest employer in West Columbia and one of the biggest in Lexington County.
The plant also is a moneymaker for West Columbia because processing chickens for supermarkets uses lots of water. City officials say the plant paid $1.2 million for water last year, about 10 percent of the city’s utility revenue.
In addition, House of Raeford is a major donor to local charities and food banks.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483