Bartholomew County is forming a citizens committee to evaluate local livestock regulations, including those dealing with concentrated animal feeding operations.
The new committee may suggest stricter ordinances, fewer regulations, or no changes to three adopted land-use standards, Bartholomew County Commissioner Rick Flohr said.
County extension educator Kris Medic will be group facilitator.
Current land use standards set a minimum size for a farm with a concentrated animal feeding operation, establish setbacks from property lines and regulate how far the operation must be from a residential area.
“This group is about making changes to determine what is the best fit for this county,” said Cassie Perry, an eastern Bartholomew County resident whose request that CAFO feeding regulations be examined led to formation of the committee.
It also may consider changes to permitted and conditional agricultural land uses, as well as lot standards for concentrated animal feeding, Perry said.
The announcement about the committee comes after the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals determined that pork producer William Gelfius can seek approval this year for a scaled-back version of a proposed concentrated animal feeding operation for hogs near Anderson Falls Park.
Gelfius in February withdrew his original request for a zoning exception to permit a facility holding up to 8,800 hogs.
His latest proposal calls for a 4,400-head swine operation at his 378-acre farm along East County Road 200N in eastern Bartholomew County.
While many who spoke against the original Gelfius proposal last winter seemed passionate about their concerns over the environment and property values, those advocating Gelfius’ proposal seemed equally passionate about protecting the rights of property owners.
Individuals are being sought to serve on the new committee who are able to see and respect all issues, Flohr said.
“If you are closed-minded, I’m not sure there’s any place for you on the committee,” Flohr said.
The group will work with the county’s comprehensive plan, which is separate from zoning and subdivision control ordinances. The plan is intended to serve as a policy guide to influence but not mandate community land use and development decisions.
Unless changes are made at the state level, a citizens group can only work on seeking regulatory changes through the comprehensive plan, Perry said.
There are currently seven large-scale hog farms in Bartholomew County, the largest of which has a 3,000-head capacity, according to a county Board of Zoning Appeals staff report. Most are located within German Township in northern Bartholomew County.
While no timetable has been set to establish recommendations, Bartholomew County Commissioners chairman Carl Lienhoop said it may take more than a year for the committee to complete the evaluation.