Transparency in CAFO approval process vital

A hallmark of good government is providing transparency to the public with regard to information and allowing sufficient opportunity for residents to question proposals that affect them and the community as a whole.

Elected county officials should keep this in mind when considering possible regulation changes for confined animal feeding operations.

The majority opinion of the Bartholomew County CFO/CAFO Regulation Study Committee is being considered by the county’s plan commission, which will make a recommendation to the county commissioners, who have the final say. The study committee has been working on this issue for more than a year. The result was two sets of recommendations:

A minority report that prefers stricter regulations on setbacks.

A majority report that prefers less strict tightening of regulations. Only this report was forwarded for official consideration.

While the recommendations largely focus on distances that the animal operations should be from other structures, the majority opinion contains another suggestion that is troubling.

It’s the proposal to replace the conditional use permit process with a permitted process for confined animal feeding operations.

That change would remove transparency from the public eye.

CFO/CAFO owners could simply walk in and get a permit if their proposed operation fits the guidelines. Next thing you know, neighbors are taken by surprise. No chance to ask questions about the operation.

Not only should the Bartholomew County commissioners ultimately vote for the strictest setbacks, they should keep transparency at the forefront.

It is in the public’s best interests to know when someone wants to set up a large animal feeding operation, so they can question its merits. They deserve the right to ask about measures to prevent contamination of water sources, for example.

Public feedback is vital for elected officials to make decisions. That happens when the city and county discuss spending and budgets, and the city did that last year when considering a change to its human rights ordinance.

Transparency is just good government and in the best interest of the community’s residents.