Letter: Revenues don’t match loss of property value with CAFO

From: Gordon Huey


The proposed zoning ordinance for CFO/CAFOs requires a 500-foot setback from a neighbor, based on the neighbor’s acreage. If the neighbor’s property is less than 5 acres, the proposed factory farm setback must be measured to the neighbor’s property line. If the neighbor owns more than 5 acres, the setback of the proposed factory farm is measured to the neighbor’s house, not to their property line. The factory farmer gets to use the neighbor’s property to diffuse odors and toxic gases.

Outside of the fact that a 500-foot setback, with no consideration of the number of animals allowed at that distance, can lead to the decimation of neighboring property values, there appear to be multiple legal challenges. One, Indiana Code 36-7-4-601(d)(2)(H) states that the governing legislative body for zoning ordinances may regulate performance standards for the emission of noises, gases, heat, vibration or particulate matter into the air or ground or across lot lines.

It does not mention performance standards to a structure. Two, can this not be considered a government taking of private property without due process and the owner being reasonably financially compensated? Three, it creates classifications of property owners, some with more rights than others.

Even if one would argue that it is unlikely a plaintiff would arise or that, once arising, would prevail, it could take hundreds of thousands of dollars to sort the thing out. The money to defend the decisions of the Bartholomew County commissioners and the Board of Zoning Appeals are tax dollars. We have already reduced hours for county employees, moved away from building a new health department/county building and will have years of road and bridge work that gets delayed or goes undone because the coffers are so low.

The incremental uptick in assessed value or other new tax revenues associated with a new CAFO don’t match the loss of property value (and thus tax revenue) suffered by the neighbors of that CAFO. And it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the legal fees if the county is sued. Why are we considering promoting a business at, literally, any cost? Is this good stewardship of taxpayers’ money?