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Poultry plant seeks expansion

Petaluma Poultry has moved one step closer to an expansion plan that will add 52 new employees and expand their operation to seven days per week, 24-hours per day. The Petaluma Planning Commission has given unanimous approval to the expanded hours of operation and approved changes to the company’s design of their plant at 2700 Lakeville Highway.

“Petaluma Poultry currently employs 249 and will add an additional 53 jobs with the proposed expansion,” said city Planning manager Heather Hines in a report to the commissioners. “The proposed project improves the Lakeville frontage by upgrading the aesthetics of the facility and creates a more attractive landscape buffer along the main thoroughfare.”

Near the corner of McDowell Boulevard on Lakeville Highway - with residential and commercial properties now surrounding it - the poultry plant has a long history in this farming community. Petaluma was once known as the “egg capitol of the world” according to the company’s web site. Company founder Allen Shainsky, who died in 2000, founded Petaluma Poultry in 1969. The owner researched poultry husbandry in France, and implemented techniques such as an “all vegetarian diet with no animal by-products and no antibiotics, artificial hormones or steroids” as well as a change in the chickens’ environment “that allowed them more room to roam naturally.”

“Petaluma Poultry started organic protocols 10 years before the USDA allowed meat and poultry to be labeled organic. Petaluma Poultry fought to establish a defined organic certification program to help clear up the confusion in the marketplace,” states the company.

In recommending approval for the project, Hines noted that when the company formed in 1969, they were required to screen their business operations from the publics’ view and remove “possible odor producing matter” in such a way that the neighbors would not be bothered. As city planner Olivia Urban noted in presenting the plan to commissioners, the company’s plant is the oldest entity in an area that now has residential homes to the west and north of the plant, and is across McDowell Boulevard from the Adobe Creek shopping center.

One resident sent a letter of opposition to the expansion plan. Tina Yesson of 441 Casa Verde Circle, wrote to Hines, saying the proposed changes might “create undesirable noises to the neighboring residences” during the night and on weekends.

“This of course would impact the value of my property,” noted Yesson.

In addition to expanding hours of operation, the plans for Petaluma Poultry include building 85 more automobile parking spaces and 22 bicycle spaces. A new office will be located adjacent to the current plant, and landscaping is proposed to “visually hide” from view the existing structures and parking lots from Lakeville Highway.

The new office will consist of modified modular offices currently on the site. This drew some criticism from commission chair Bill Wolpert, who said the structures were not meant to be permanent.

“These trailers have handicap access issues and were not meant to become permanent offices,” said Wolpert, who never the less endorsed the overall expansion plan. “Petaluma Poultry is a landmark company for this town. They’ve been a good neighbor.”

No changes would be made to the hours of operation for truck deliveries along neighboring streets, which are between 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. during the week and 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. But a new access point for vehicles into the plant on South McDowell Boulevard would be created.

The plan now goes to the Petaluma city council for final approval, noted current planning commissioner Gina Benedetti-Petnic.

(Contact E. A. Barrera at ernesto.barrera@arguscourier.com)