Tighter CAFO rules best for county

The formal decision-making process on whether to change the Bartholomew County zoning ordinance with regard to confined feeding operations (CFOs) and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) takes the next step Feb. 10, when the county’s Plan Commission has a public hearing on setback requirements.

After about a year of studying the issue, the Bartholomew County CFO/CAFO Study Committee issued a list of recommendations that will be considered by the plan commission and later the Bartholomew County Board of Commissioners, which will have the final decision.

The recommendations reflect the majority opinion, which is largely to make no changes or increase setback requirements a little. A minority opinion that won’t be formally presented to the decision-making bodies, but will be available for consideration, advocates for more restrictive requirements than the majority opinion.

The commissioners have an important decision to make about amending the zoning ordinance.

We believe the commissioners should adopt the most restrictive requirements.

Adopting the most restrictive requirements adequately address justifiable concerns about odors, negative impact on property values and environmental contamination from manure runoff, while also allowing for the operation of CFOs and CAFOs.

For example, the county currently has no setback requirement of CFOs from any well. The majority opinions suggests a setback of 500 feet, while the minority opinion suggests a half-mile (2,640 feet). When considering a property owner’s water source, greater safety from contamination makes sense.

Agriculture has an important place in Bartholomew County’s economy, and farm operations with large numbers of animals are a part of that. They would continue to be because the tighter regulations wouldn’t prohibit CFOs and CAFOs.

Tighter regulations also would wrongly be described as governmental interference. Local governments are tasked with considering what a community wants and its best interests, and setting regulations accordingly.

It’s notable that during a public open house in September that allowed residents to study the proposed regulation changes, nearly 60 percent indicated through a voting process that they favored the more restrictive setbacks suggested in the study committee’s minority opinion. Slightly less than 10 percent favored the less restrictive setbacks suggested in the committee’s majority opinion.

While the vote wasn’t scientific and reflected a little less than 100 voters, the far greater support for the more restrictive regulations can’t be ignored.

County commissioners said it may not be until March before they make their final decision. The sooner this issue is settled, the better it will be for the county.

A long-established CAFO got approval Dec. 14 to erect a new building 45 feet from an existing property line, which is 55 closer than the current ordinance calls for. That’s far closer than new standards being considered. Such a decision just complicates the zoning issue.

When the matter of amending the zoning ordinance formally reaches the commissioners, they must consider the economic role of CFOs, the concerns of neighboring property owners and the potential for environmental contamination to reaching a decision. When considering all those factors, the more restrictive regulations suggested in the minority report would be the best choice.

For more information

To see the proposed CFO/CAFO zoning ordinance amendments, visit: