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Panel OKs hog-feeding operation

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A Hope pork producer has received approval to build a 2,000-head confined feeding operation just outside Old St. Louis.

The Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 Monday to give Jeff Shoaf the go-ahead to begin construction.

Shoaf’s attorney, Kristin Whittington, said there are no plans to build the confined feeding operation anytime soon.

Board members Zack Ellison, Dewayne Hines and Roger Glick voted for the Shoaf proposal, while member Gil Palmer voted against it. Board member Jason Newton said he had a conflict of interest and recused himself from a vote.

Shoaf also has a permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to build the confined feeding operation at 11420 E. County Road 800N.

Nearly two dozen nearby residents came to the meeting, some saying the proposal would lower the water table in the area, cause odor and increase truck travel near their homes. Some who attended were members of the Hawcreek CFO Fighters group, which was formed to oppose Shoaf’s plans.

Residents Nancy Banta and Jay Beaman, who live near the Shoaf site, said the hog building could render their private wells useless, causing them to spend thousands of dollars to have new wells drilled.

Responding to comments by the opponents, Whittington said the confined feeding operation would use about 4,000 gallons of water a day from a well that Shoaf plans to drill.

The board allowed 10 people in favor of the project and 10 people against to speak about the Shoaf proposal, with each person being given three minutes to speak.

Opponents brought in hog farm expert Kathy Martin from Oklahoma, who said she has spoken against the feeding operations in 21 states and researched about 40 cases in Indiana. She was given six minutes to speak after being allowed to take up two spaces in the opponents’ 10 slots.

Proposed traffic counts for trucks traveling to and from the hog operation were inaccurate, Martin said, adding she was worried that IDEM would not inspect the property for violations very often.

Opponents weren’t sure if they would have a chance to speak at Monday night’s meeting after they missed a public hearing at a meeting in June. No decision was made about the Shoaf proposal then because board members were unable to come to a decision.

Hines said he decided to allow the public to speak Monday night because it seemed like the fair thing to do.

Jeff Shoaf’s son-in-law, Kyle Shepherd, spoke in favor of the proposal, saying hog farms are part of country living and his father-in-law does a great job operating one.

Shoaf’s confined feeding operation would be a barn that is about 82 feet wide and 205 feet long, with an 8-foot-deep manure pit under the building.

He needed the zoning appeals board approval because the barn is closer than a half-mile to Old St. Louis, which is zoned residential. Bartholomew County’s ordinance requires a half-mile distance between confined feeding operations and homes.

Shoaf plans to house about 2,000 hogs every six months, raising them from 12 pounds to 275 pounds.

Ellison, who made the motion to approve Shoaf’s proposal, said the vote would not change the distance requirement in the county’s confined feeding ordinance. Any future proposals would be considered and discussed as required under those rules, he added.

The zoning appeals board would like to have more information about confined feeding operations, Ellison said. He added he is hopeful a new committee being formed to study Bartholomew County ordinances about confined feeding will help.

That committee will be called the Bartholomew County CAFO Regulation Study Committee, said Kris Medic, Bartholomew County Purdue Extension educator for agriculture, natural resources, and economic and community development.

“People are going to have strong feeling about this,” she said.

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.

Medic said the committee could have a new draft of the ordinance ready by May.

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