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County considering moratorium on CAFO

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Bartholomew County is considering a moratorium on proposed confined feeding operations while a newly formed committee examines county ordinances regulating the facilities.

The moratorium, requested by the Bartholomew County Commissioners, would mean the county would not consider any new applications for the facilities for a designated period of time, county Commissioner Rick Flohr said.

“We are going to take a sincere look at our ordinance and make sure we’re not missing something,” Flohr said. “We’re going to go look at different operations and really study the subject.”

Flohr said a moratorium has been discussed among the commissioners since Hawcreek Township farmer William Gelfius proposed a concentrated animal feeding operation in December and received approval for 4,400 hogs June 30. Another confined feeding operation for 2,000 hogs proposed by Hope farmer Jeff Shoaf near Old St. Louis was approved July 21.

The two proposals were met with organized community group protests, with some residents contending the hog farms would cause odor, reduce property values and increase truck travel near their homes. Both projects received permits from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Before going into effect, the moratorium would have to be recommended by the Bartholomew County Plan Commission and then approved by the county commissioners.

It would be in effect for a fixed amount of time, county attorney Grant Tucker said.

The plan commission will have a public hearing about the moratorium at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at Columbus City Hall.

City-county planning director Jeff Bergman said there are no requests pending for confined feeding operations at this time.

The moratorium would allow the new Bartholomew County CAFO Regulation Study Committee to meet without proposals pending, plan commission president Zack Ellison said.

The committee will be chaired by Kris Medic, Bartholomew County Purdue Extension educator for agriculture, natural resources, and economic and community development.

The county asked for volunteers from the community, and seven people representing urban and rural areas of the county will be selected to serve. Those selected will be revealed at Monday’s county commissioners meeting, Medic said.

Committee members already named are Flohr, county surveyor’s office and plan commission member Tom Finke, county soil and water conservation district board member Dennis Brooks and Bartholomew County Farm Bureau County President Scott Bonnell. Medic said Scott Strietelmeier from the Bartholomew County Health Department will also be on the committee.

Bartholomew County’s confined feeding ordinance is less than a page long and hasn’t been updated in years, Medic said. The committee will compare the county’s ordinance with other counties in Indiana, incorporate the information they have learned from recent cases and make changes if necessary, she said.

The current county ordinance says the feeding operation cannot be located on a property less than five acres, must be set back a minimum of 100 feet from all property lines and must be at least a half-mile away from the nearest residential zoned area.

The first committee meeting date has not been set but could be in September, Medic said. It will be open to the public and have a short period designated for public feedback. A public information meeting is planned after the committee finishes its work, Medic said. The committee should complete its work by May 2015, she said.

Kathy Hershey with the Anderson Falls CAFO Fighters said a moratorium is something the group asked the county for months ago and is glad to see it being considered.

“A moratorium is a great idea,” she said.

Hershey said the county’s decision to wait until after the committee conducts its study to decide on any other feeding operations is exactly what many concerned residents have wanted since the Gelfius and Shoaf cases were proposed.

Hershey said her group has started contacting experts to help assist in studying the effects of hog farms on the environment as it specifically relates to areas in Bartholomew County.

“If anybody’s going to look out for us, it has to be us,” she said.

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