Zoning is still a sore spot for Montgomery County residents, many of whom came to the county plan commission’s Wednesday meeting to ask for more thought on how to regulate confined feeding operations, or CFOs.
An application sent to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management earlier this year to start a CFO with 8,800 hogs sparked controversy in the nearby town of Linden. Now the county is looking to address them in an ordinance that would place siting restrictions on similar projects, although CFOs already operating or under construction in the county would be grandfathered in without having to comply.
Much of the criticism at the meeting focused on the method the county’s proposed ordinance would use to approve CFOs. The ordinance requires each CFO to collect so-called “points” through actions such as placement away from nearby properties, handling of odor, and notification of neighboring residents. A farm wouldn’t have to meet every requirement in the ordinance; it would only need to collect enough points.
Resident Michael Sutherlin has done work with the Hoosier Environmental Council. He says the county should require CFOs to meet all of the recommendations, not just meet the minimum point threshold.
“And this ordinance suggests you can have different processes for eliminating with the odor and dealing with the effluent, but if you did all of them, you wouldn’t have any problems with the neighbors. I guarantee you that," Sutherlin says.
But County Commissioner John Frey defended the points system, saying it offers a way to approve or deny a CFO through clearly defined rules.
“There’s no fear of favoritism or accusations of favoritism either way. If you don’t meet the points system, don’t even come in," Frey says.
Some residents asked for a moratorium on any more construction until an ordinance is passed, but the county attorney says that would need to be a proposal on an advertised agenda first.
Many speakers chose instead to ask the commission to take more time in drafting and amending an ordinance regulating them.
Resident Kelly Shannon says she’d like an advisory committee to research CFOs.
“We think that it would be best to take a step back, slow it down a little bit and look at all the possibilities and variety of stakeholders who would be involved,” Shannon says.
The board seemed receptive to the idea. Commission member Tammy Meyers motioned to table a vote on the ordinance so they could consider such a committee.
“I thought that was a really good idea to merge ideas and get everybody more together and on the same page, especially people who know what they’re talking about like the farmers,” Meyers says.
The motion passed unanimously, thus tabling the vote until October, and giving time to consider the creation of a shareholder committee.
That committee, comprised of representatives from industries including real estate and agriculture, would have until the October vote to study CFOs and their impact on the community.