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Confined animal operations require layers of approval

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A Bartholomew County pork producer needs three different approvals, two from the county and one from the state, before constructing a new confined animal feeding operation at 20565 E. County Road 200N.

So far, two sought by William Gelfius are pending, and one has yet to be filed.

Gelfius is working with environmental consultant Kristin Whittington, Landmark Enterprises, LLC, to file necessary applications with county and state agencies.

Every county has different rules for confined feeding operation approvals, Whittington said. In Bartholomew County, applicants such as Gelfius are required to obtain approval for a stormwater pollution prevention plan from the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District and zoning approval from the Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals. Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) approval also is required, she said.

Gelfius’ stormwater pollution prevention plan is pending at the soil and water

conservation district and may be forwarded to IDEM within the next few days, district coordinator Heather Shireman said.

The local soil and water district is required to make sure necessary stormwater procedures are in place before construction begins, Shireman said. IDEM checks off the stormwater approval as part of its overall permitting process through the agency’s water division, Whittington said.

Gelfius is requesting a conditional-use approval within the county’s agriculture zoning districts, said Jeff Bergman, Columbus-Bartholomew County planning director. The county’s zoning ordinance divides it into different geographical areas, and each area has a list of land uses that are permitted. There is also a second list of conditional uses for each area, which is what Gelfius is seeking.

Those seeking a conditional use must receive approval from the zoning appeals board, which represents the final step in the county zoning approval process, Bergman said.

No one may start construction of a confined feeding operation or expansion without prior approval from IDEM, according to application rules listed on the IDEM website. Gelfius’ IDEM application is being prepared and may be submitted to the state within the week, Whittington said.

The IDEM application, which is more than 100 pages, goes through the agency’s land management division.

After it is filed, residents who live or own property nearby receive notice that the IDEM application is pending, and have 30 days to comment at the state level, Whittington said. IDEM has 45 days to consider the application, she said.

Instructions on how to comment are listed on the notification letter sent out when the application is filed.

A check with IDEM confirmed that Gelfius has not filed there yet. But that is not unusual, particularly if a zoning appeals request is pending, said Barry Sneed, an IDEM spokesman.

Gelfius filed a request Dec. 23 for zoning approval with the Bartholomew County Planning Department. The next hearing on the zoning request is at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Bartholomew County Government Building’s fourth floor councilchambers.

Some farms apply and get their local zoning permits first and then seek IDEM approval, and others get the zoning approval first and then apply to IDEM, Sneed said.

While the decision on which approval to seek first is up to the applicant, both zoning and IDEM approvals are needed to construct a confined feeding operation, Sneed said. IDEM approval does not supersede zoning approval, meaning that an applicant may have state approval from IDEM, but still can’t move forward unless local zoning officials also approve.

Because the zoning approval trumps IDEM, many farmers elect to get local zoning approval first, Sneed said.

There are about 625 confined animal feeding operations in Indiana, representing about 20 percent of the IDEM-regulated farms.

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