A moratorium prohibiting Bartholomew County from considering any new confined feeding operations for 18 months will be considered by the county commissioners Aug. 25.
County commissioner Rick Flohr, who proposed the moratorium, said the commissioners support the plan to give a newly formed confined feeding study committee time to study current ordinances without any applications pending.
However, Columbus attorney Jeff Rocker told plan commission members Wednesday the moratorium would interfere with property owners’ rights to start a hog farm business.
The moratorium essentially would allow the county to “find a better and more defined way to keep your rights away from you in the future,” he said.
“Any changes to the ordinance are going to do that.”
Rocker said two previous hog confined feeding proposals by Bartholomew County residents William Gelfius and Jeff Shoaf were the longest and most difficult cases he has ever been a part of in his professional career.
The time it took to come to a decision indicates that a thorough system is in place and works, he said.
County board of zoning appeals chairman Dewayne Hines said the argument that the current county ordinance on feeding operations needs to be examined because it’s less than one page long isn’t a good one.
When the ordinance was created in 2007, it was a long and thoughtful process, Hines said.
“The regulations that were put in place then were not from a willy-nilly standpoint,” he said. “There’s a lot of parts of our ordinances that are less than seven pages long and are 7 years old. It’s not out of the norm.”
Putting together a committee to study the ordinance is a wise decision, Hines told the plan commission.
But he said he was worried that forming the committee sends a message that there’s something wrong with the current ordinance and that feeding operations aren’t welcome in Bartholomew County.
Bartholomew County Plan Commission members voted 5-3 on Wednesday recommending the commissioners approve the moratorium. Commission members Kris Medic, Zack Ellison, Phyllis Apple, Rick Flohr and Lisa Moore voted for the moratorium. Jason Newton, Tom Finke and Jorge Morales voted against.
The moratorium would apply to proposed confined feeding operations that need to have a permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
In Indiana, an animal feeding operation with 300 or more cattle, 600 or more swine or sheep, 30,000 or more poultry or 500 horses in confinement requires IDEM approval.
The committee studying the county’s confined feeding ordinance will meet at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Bartholomew County Council chambers.
Headed by Kris Medic, interim county Purdue Extension director, the Columbus and Bartholomew County CAFO Regulation Study Committee will compare the county’s ordinance with other counties in Indiana, incorporate the information they have learned from recent cases and propose changes the members deem necessary.
The current county ordinance says confined feeding operations 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.
Medic said committee meetings 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, she said.
Medic added that the only meeting that won’t be open to the public is a visit the committee will take to a confined feeding operation.