A Philadelphia-based father and son are seeking Harford County approval to expand their halal "fresh meat" operation with a proposed facility off Route 40 near Aberdeen, where they would sell the meat of livestock butchered onsite.
A 7,425-square-foot market, with space for retail as well as an interior space for processing of animals, is proposed. It would be built on a vacant property in the 1500 block of South Philadelphia Boulevard, just west of the intersection with Spesutia Road, according to a site plan presented during a Harford County Development Advisory Committee hearing in Bel Air Wednesday morning.
Daniel Wise, of the Bel Air engineering and planning firm Frederick Ward Associates, also presented a preliminary subdivision plan to the committee, as the proposed market operators are seeking approval to combine two parcels into a 1.2-acre site. The proposed site is shaped like a reverse "L," according to the plan.
The property, which is zoned for commercial-industrial use, is owned by Wesley H. Lafon, Trustee, of Joppa; it has public water and sewer service, the plan shows.
Mohamed Elkazaz, 58, who now works with his son, Sam, 25, both of Philadelphia, has been in business since 1993. They operate retail meat markets in New York City and Philadelphia, where customers can pick out a live chicken, goat or other animal and have it butchered onsite in a traditional Muslim halal manner.
"We process it in the back and we sell it as fresh meat," Mohamed Elkazaz said after the hearing.
They plan to open their Aberdeen shop in 2019, pending county approval.
Halal butchering means starting with an animal that is "alive and healthy" when it is slaughtered, according to a BBC News report. The butcher must use a "surgically" sharp knife to slice the animal's throat, all blood must be drained from the carcass, and a Muslim must recite prayers during slaughter, according to the BBC.
Sam Elkazaz said their market customers do not have to be Muslim, and they can bring their own animals for processing if they wish.
His father said they have customers from Maryland who patronize their Philadelphia market.
"They love fresh meat," the elder Elkazaz said.
There are no other known halal butcher shops in Harford County, Molly Mraz, a spokesperson for the Harford County Health Department, wrote in an email Thursday.
The operation is not a slaughterhouse, but rather a retail operation with a small processing area. Customers are purchasing a whole animal for butchering, so the operation is not subject to USDA inspections, according to the owners.
Sam Elkazaz said the proposed business would not be to the "scale" of a "slaughterhouse where [we would be] slaughtering a number of animals."
William Baker Jr., executive vice president with Frederick Ward, said the facility is still subject to Harford County Health Department inspections, similar to other food operations.
Len Walinski, who represents the Health Department on the Development Advisory Committee, said his agency must review and approve all food service and building plans before a building permit is issued.
Robin Wales, of the county Department of Emergency Services, said the address will be listed as 1515 S. Philadelphia Blvd., pending approval by the Department of Planning and Zoning.
Rich Zeller, of the State Highway Administration, said the owners must build a 25- to 35-foot-wide commercial entrance off of the highway, plus core samples must be taken along the shoulder to determine its "traffic-bearing thickness."
Jennifer Daniels, of the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning, said the owners also must establish building setbacks in accordance with county standards for "warehousing and processing" operations.
Darryl Ivins, of the Division of Water & Sewer, said the adequacy of the water system serving the property is under review.
Officials want to ensure there is adequate flow for fire hydrants, Ivins said.