Letter: Eliminating public hearings for CAFOs a mistake

From: Jean Terpstra


I am a 26-year resident and passionate supporter of Columbus. I have to speak out against the direction that I see the Bartholomew County Plan Commission and Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals are taking this community.

I am writing in opposition to the proposed changes to the zoning rules controlling the establishment of huge concentrated livestock operations known as CFOs and CAFOs in Bartholomew County. While presented as if the proposed rule changes are an increase in protection that will safeguard the community, they are in fact the opposite. Any protection they claim to provide is illusory and deceptive, and they are wholly inadequate to protect this community from the huge individual and community costs of expanding this industry here.

The current system requires a public hearing before allowing these massive animal operations to establish. This hearing gives everyone in the community a chance to understand what is proposed and identify potential problems before these factory farms go in. It gives everyone the chance to learn the facts and help determine what is best for everyone in the community. Removing the hearing requirement is the opposite of government transparency and will blind-side the community and silence those most directly affected by these massive, resource-intensive and polluting, concentrated livestock operations.

The conditional use process currently in place also allows the BZA to look at the specific operation on that proposed site and make additional conditions needed to protect the community. If it were near a school or nursing home, next to a historic farm, on flood plains, or next to wetlands, these things could be considered and changes to the application required before approval would be granted.

Bartholomew County is a heavily populated county, with lots of waterways, flood zones, people and businesses that require special consideration. The individualized conditional use review process is the best way to deal with those special circumstances.

Do not let the BZA and plan commission shirk their responsibility to control the placement and development of these CFOs and CAFOs. Ask the plan commission to act on the premise that current homes, schools, parks, businesses and non-CAFO farms are as important as any proposed concentrated livestock operations. Please ask them to reject the current proposed changes and maintain the requirement that all CFOs and CAFO must receive a conditional use permit before establishing here in our community.

Come to the plan commission hearing at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 10 at Columbus City Hall and let them know you won’t be silenced.