CAFOs hearing resumes

A recommendation for zoning requirements for new confined animal feeding operations in areas surrounding Columbus may be determined Wednesday.

The Bartholomew County Plan Commission is expected to begin considering proposed changes recommended by a majority of a local CFO/CAFO Regulation Study Committee after a public hearing that began last month.

As it did Feb. 10, the commission will meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Columbus City Hall. This time the meeting will be in the second-floor city council chambers.

Another change is that the CFO/CAFO zoning ordinance amendments are first on the agenda. Last month, about 60 people sat through lengthy presentations and discussions on two other matters before the public hearing began.

Four additional letters about the CFO/CAFO zoning have been sent to the plan commission since the Feb. 10 meeting, said city-county associate planner Charles Russell. With the four, there have been 29 letters sent to the commission about the proposed changes.

When February’s public hearing was continued until Wednesday, commission members emphasized they only wanted to hear new information — not just a rehash of what had already been said.

However, plan commission Chairman Zack Ellison said leniency will be extended to those who did not attend the first hearing, as they may be unaware of what has already been communicated to the commission.

The possible regulation amendments apply to confined feeding of at least 300 cattle, 600 swine or sheep, 30,000 fowl or 500 horses.

The commission also is reminding those who wish to speak that the proposed changes apply only to the unincorporated portions of Bartholomew County, which exclude Edinburgh and Columbus and the jurisdiction of the Edinburgh/Bartholomew/Columbus Joint District Plan Commission. That would also exclude Hope, Jonesville, Hartsville, Clifford and Elizabethtown.

Since the commission has spent almost a month digesting what has already been presented, the question of whether a vote on a recommendation to the county commissioners will be Wednesday or delayed until April likely will depend on whether new evidence is presented, Ellison said.

“If there’s new input of compelling information, there’s a possibility we may wait to consider that further,” Ellison said.

He said all presentations should be factual, rather than anecdotal or emotional, because the following five-point criteria will be used to determine whether or not to recommend the proposed changes:

The most desirable use for land

The conservation of property values

Responsible growth and development

How the proposals fit the county’s comprehensive plan.

Current conditions of impacted property

“If we go against one of them, we must have a very good reason,” Ellison said.

The 25 speakers who made their cases last month, as well as the content of received correspondence, indicate four out of five support stronger setback requirements than what is included in the committee’s majority recommendation, Ellison said.

On Thursday, Ellison denied speculation that, for political reasons, the commission is deliberately delaying sending recommendations to the all-Republican Bartholomew County commissioners until after the May primary.

“I’ve never heard anyone ask us to delay our decision,” said Ellison, who is also vice chairman of the Bartholomew County Democratic Central Committee. “I don’t get a sense of anyone shying away from their responsibility at all.”

He also denied allegations the commission has been avoiding larger crowds by maintaining their normal weekday morning meeting schedule, instead of scheduling a special evening public hearing.

While a night meeting was discussed, the idea was abandoned only because a date could not be found that would allow all commission members to attend, Ellison said.

If you go

The Bartholomew County Plan Commission will conclude its public hearing on new setback requirements for confined feeding operations.

When: 8:30 a.m. Wednesday

Where: City Council chambers, second floor, Columbus City Hall

What you need to know: Presentations should be limited to five minutes per speaker. Those speaking are urged to offer new factual testimony and evidence, rather than reiterate what has been said before. If new and compelling information surfaces, the commission may decide to wait until April to vote on a recommendation about the zoning rules.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.