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A confined-feeding operation for 4,400 hogs along the Bartholomew/Decatur County line has received state approval, but some residents are resorting to legal action to fight it.
Columbus attorney David Brinley, on behalf of several property owners near the planned site, asked the Decatur County Board of Zoning Appeals to halt the project and to reconsider how it is interpreting zoning ordinances in this case.
The appeal to the zoning board is a required step before a lawsuit can be filed, he said.
Robert Crussel, represented by Brinley, said the zoning board’s response will determine what he and some other property owners might do next.
Crussel and his wife, Pam, live in the 4800 block of South Decatur County Road 950W, less than a mile from the planned site.
“There’s nothing good about a hog farm for a surrounding neighborhood,” Bob Crussel said.
Robert Pumphrey in March applied to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for approval to build Cook Farm. It would be located 900 feet south of the intersection of State Road 46 and Decatur County Road 950W, about 1½ miles from Hartsville in eastern Bartholomew County.
Pumphrey and his wife, Natalie, co-own Ag Production Enterprises Inc., which operates nearly a dozen hog operations in Decatur and Rush counties. Steady growth of business has necessitated the need for Cook Farm, he said.
Nearby property owners have objected to the project, however, citing concerns about:
Its effect on an already-low water table, because the operation will require a substantial amount of water.
The effect odor will have on quality of life and home values.
Manure runoff contaminating groundwater sources or nearby water.
“They’re taking away our rights to clean air ... or enjoying yard work or having company over to give him rights to build a hog farm,” Robert Crussel said of IDEM and the zoning board.
IDEM approved the application for construction of one swine confinement building with a concrete pit beneath slatted floors for the storage of liquid manure from 4,400 finishing hogs.
“The manure control facilities, including the availability of acreage for manure application, meet or exceed the
requirements set by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management,” the agency wrote in an approval letter dated July 29.
Robert Pumphrey said he did not begin construction immediately because he wanted to wait for the appeal made to the zoning board to be resolved, and until a time period for appealing IDEM’s approval has passed. That date was Sunday, IDEM spokesman Barry Sneed said.
“We’ve really got plenty of time from an operational standpoint,” he said, noting that he has two years to begin construction.
However, Daniel R. Dinsmore of Greensburg has appealed IDEM’s approval of the Cook Farm permit, filing it Friday with the Office of Environmental Adjudication.
In his appeal, Dinsmore, who lives across the road from the proposed site, said the proposed confined-feeding operation will endanger and contaminate public streams, private ponds and the existing limited groundwater.
Dinsmore’s appeal also states that:
Pumphrey failed to meet minimum requirements for the building location, site location and soil boring tests.
IDEM failed to inspect, test and locate all abandoned wells on the proposed site.
Dinsmore’s appeal will be scheduled for pre-conference and stay hearings by Judge Catherine Gibbs of the Office of Environmental Adjudication. The pre-conference hearing would be a chance for both sides to see if they can work out an agreement, said India Davidson, a legal assistant with the office.
Brinley said one reason for the appeal to the county zoning board Aug. 7 was the belief that its members have misinterpreted zoning regulations concerning confined-feeding operations, and have allowed the project in violation of county ordinances and statutes, he said.
The project has been approved in an A-1 agricultural zone even though local ordinances do not specifically mention or permit confined-feeding operations in such a zone, Brinley said. However, local ordinances specifically permit confined-feeding operations in A-2 agricultural zones, he said.
Brinley also contends that Decatur County ordinances do not provide regulations for confined-feeding operations.
Albert Armand, president of the Decatur County Board of Zoning Appeals, said the county’s ordinances and regulations pertaining to confined-feeding operations were written to mirror IDEM’s regulations.
Also, the county’s ordinances for A-1 agricultural zones pertain to the most intensive agricultural operations, he said.
“Forty-four hundred (hogs) in most people’s minds, that would be an intensive operation,” Armand said.
The board’s members and its attorney are reviewing local ordinances and regulations to form a reply to Brinley’s appeal, Armand said.
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