A retail halal butcher shop that slaughters chickens on-site will be allowed to open in a small industrial area of Alexandria, despite strong opposition from nearby business owners and their patrons.
The Alexandria City Council voted 5 to 2 on Tuesday evening to approve a special-use permit for D.C. Live Poultry Market at 3223 Colvin St., just off Duke Street, on a block that houses three dog day-care or training facilities, a hazardous-waste recycling center, a construction company, an auto repair shop and a landscaping business.
Neighboring businesses, led by owners of pet day-care centers, objected vociferously to the arrival of the market, owned by Abdulsalem Mused and his family.
The all-Democratic council received more than 200 emails and calls about the project, and speakers at a March 16 public hearing predicted noise, odors, traffic and parking problems.
With two members absent that day, the council took the unusual step of delaying a vote for 10 days.
On Tuesday, council members Canek Aguirre and John Taylor Chapman returned to provide the votes needed to pass the permit, along with Mayor Justin Wilson and council members Del Pepper and Mo Seifeldein.
“I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said Aguirre, one of four first-term council members. He said he respected the opinions of vegetarians, animal rights activists and others horrified by the idea of chicken slaughter, but “we do have to live within the reality of our society that we do consume meat and meat products.”
Halal meat, prepared according to Islamic law, is available in several local stores. But the nearest halal slaughterhouse is in Warrenton, about 90 minutes from Alexandria.
Aguirre quoted from some of the letters to the council, including a portion of one by Peter Wood of Silver Spring, who called poultry markets “filthy and disease-ridden hellholes rife with suffering, misery and death.” The lawmaker then asked a number of questions of city government employees, addressing each of the opponents’ main concerns.
In the end, the council approved the land-use permit with conditions that require extra control for odors and waste disposal, and delivery of the chickens — via closed box truck — between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Opponents chanted “shame, shame” after the vote. One man, who declined to give his name, stood and turned his back on the council.
Council members Amy Jackson, who voted no along with Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, said Colvin Street has little curbside parking and cannot handle the additional demand that the butcher shop’s customers will create. The block is gentrifying, with the arrival of the pet businesses, a commercial bakery, Rocklands Barbeque at the end of the street and the approval just 10 days ago of Yates Pizza around the corner.
Bennett-Parker said she researched some of Mused’s 14 other butcheries, calling neighbors and even visiting Philadelphia. Neighbors complained about “stink and stench . . . unbearable in the summer,” she said.
Mused said in his permit application that operations within the 5,200-square-foot, windowless concrete building would not disturb neighbors. He plans to store waste from the slaughter in an enclosed freezer and dispose of it daily, also by truck. He is also required to install an odor-controlling ventilation system.
A special-use permit was needed because keeping live poultry overnight is not a use specified in Alexandria’s industrial zone. The city’s planning commission recommended granting the permit, and the city’s health department said Tuesday that the business presented no public health concerns for animals or people.
Pepper, who had been heavily lobbied to vote no, said the slaughterhouse was “not the land use I had hoped for” in the neighborhood. But she said there was no legal reason to vote against it.
Outside the council room minutes later, Sandy Modell, owner of the nearby Wholistic Hound Academy, vowed to oppose Pepper, who has served on the council since 1985, if she decides to seek another term. “Del is out. Her time has come,” Modell said.
After the vote, Mused waited until the hubbub in the hallway had subsided before leaving the council chamber.
“I’m happy, but I want to make neighbors happy, too,” he said, pledging to write a letter to the neighbors and “build a facility to their satisfaction. I may never see the council again, but I will see my neighbors every day.”
His nephew Abo Mused agreed. “Once we’re up and running, it’s going to be nothing like they think it is,” he said. “We’re not Tyson, we’re not Perdue. We’re a family business.”