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‘It is not going to be a petting zoo’: Roma sausage pig farm planned for Fallston property along Route 1

Roma sausages’ first pig and chicken farm is being planned for a property along Route 1 in Fallston after years of failing to rezone or sell the land.

Approximately 18.5 acres of wooded area on the 2500 block of Bel Air Road in Fallston could become a pig and chicken farm, CEO of Roma Gourmet Foods Al Pecora said, because the land could not be sold or rezoned. Roma, a Baltimore-based sausage company, has been in business since 1963; Pecora has been the CEO since 2008.

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Pecora said the land has been in his family since the 1970s and has gone largely unused for years. His family used to run a restaurant where the Fallston Barrel House is now located near the corner of Routes 1 and 152, adjacent to the proposed farm.

Multiple attempts to sell the property were made, he said, but deals never took. Attempts to work with developers to rezone the property for more profitable uses fell through as well, he said, most recently at the tail end of 2020. The property remains mostly zoned for agriculture, with a smaller area fronting Route 1 zoned for business.

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When those plans fell down, a sign went up, advertising the location as the future home of Roma’s organic pig farm.

County spokeswoman Cindy Mumby said the county only had records of an application for rezoning from 2009. At that time, a request to rezone the vacant property to all business was rejected by the then-county council through an amendment, despite the county’s planning and zoning department recommending the change.

The property owners previously applied for a similar rezoning in 1996-1997 during the comprehensive rezoning process.

Pecora said that families in the area attended the 2009 zoning hearing to protest the potential change. Written testimony in the documents shows that many of the property’s residential neighbors opposed the change because they did not want to see the woods near their homes destroyed. Other testimony was more on-the-nose, arguing that developing the land would reduce their homes’ buffer from Route 1 or lower their homes’ value.

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The area has been built up significantly in the last decade, particularly the Aumar Village shopping center opposite the proposed farm on Route 1 that started taking shape in 2011 and 2012 when the McDonald’s and Texas Roadhouse restaurants opened. Behind the center, an 88-unit residential development also called Aumar Village is under construction. During the 2009 rezoning, part of the Aumar Villages property in the 200 block of Mountain Road was granted rezoning to a business classification from agricultural.

Plans for the pig farm are in the early stages, Pecora said; he is currently looking for a company to clear the area. And because his business is only making the sausage, he would be interested in finding someone to lease the land and run the pig and chicken farm. He would have rather have the zoning changed and pursue other developments, understanding that pig and chicken farms are smelly, but said he had no alternative under the current zoning.

“We tried to develop it in a way to benefit the community,” Pecora said. “We wanted to be good neighbors, but we have no choice in the matter because we cannot just allow it to sit there [and pay] taxes on it.”

Those taxes are steep, too, Pecora said — about $15,000 a year. He is also exploring whether the pigs could be slaughtered on the property.

“It is not going to be a petting zoo,” he said.

Neighboring residents and businesses had mixed reactions to the planned pig farm. One woman who lives near the site on Wilgis Road said she imagined that her home’s resale value would be impacted by the smell. The farm will not be directly behind her house, but the odor could be strong enough to reach her property, where she has lived for 44 years.

But Todd Walters, owner of The Crab Barrel, which neighbors the property, had no problem with the addition of a pig farm. He said it would protect from over-development in the area and give him an idea of where the Roma sausages he enjoys come from. He said the planned farm would be right next to his business and that he is sympathetic to Pecora’s tax situation with the property.

“People have got to stop being so scared of everything,” Walters said. “We all have got to live; we all have got to eat.”

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