West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) The West Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals denied the House of Raeford chicken processing plant’s request to build a small structure or cover for some electrical equipment where a moved portion of their plant’s cooling system had been when they met Tuesday evening. The request involved what the plant’s management described as a small enclosure to cover the electrical equipment.
The House of Raeford’s chicken processing plant has had a presence in West Columbia near the Sunset Boulevard/Jarvis Klapman overpass for decades. They also utilize a large portion of the old shopping center across Sunset Boulevard where they have office and storage space.
Several people who spoke at the appeals meeting voiced their angst with the change. Many cited the facility's proximity to the scenic Congaree River. Opposition to the plant because of the odor it emits when it is in operation has also been a point of contention with nearby residents and neighbors in the past.
House of Raeford has more than 800 employees, making it one of Lexington County’s largest employers. It also buys a great deal of water from the City of West Columbia and pays city business licenses fees that contribute greatly to the services that other residents of the town receive.
The House of Raeford and its management has pointed out that it has been in the area for about 50 years and contributes a great deal to the community. Their charitable arm, called FLOCK, gives tons of chicken and chicken products to area food banks including the Harvest Hope Food Bank and LICS in Lexington. They don’t limit their giving to just the Cayce / West Columbia area and recently made donations to school children in the Batesburg-Leesville community as well.
Just last week, House of Raeford, in partnership with the city, added a crosswalk on Sunset Boulevard in front of their building to help make crossing the street safer and easier for their employees. Many of them have to park on the side opposite of the plant itself in a special parking area or in the old shopping center.
The management of the House of Raeford hasn’t said yet what if anything their next step will be to protect their equipment from the weather or people. There are other remedies for zoning problems that usually involve court proceedings. It is rare that a decision like this is ever overturned.