Debate on Montgomery County CFO ordinance continues

The board could not come to a resolution on two potential changes to amendments proposed on Wednesday. It will reconvene on the matter in December.

Posted: Nov 27, 2019 11:42 PM

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - The talking continued Wednesday night at the Montgomery County Courthouse regarding a ordinance-in-the-works about confined feeding operations and concentrated animal feeding operations (CFO's and CAFO's). Click here to learn more about the difference between CFO's and CAFO's

As News 18 previously reported, Bowlder Ridge LLC's request to build a CFO in Montgomery County sparked this controversy. The county currently does not have any rules about where these large-scale animal operations can be built. The Montgomery County Planning Commission met in July to start the talks for a potential ordinance and decided to reconvene in the fall.

"It was at the July meeting that we tasked a subcommittee," said Montgomery County Commissioner John Frey. He said they selected people for the subcommittee based on geographic locations in the county and based on their area of expertise.

"We had residential home owners, the agriculture sector, land brokers who deal with property values, the rural schools," he said. "We had representation from both North and South Montgomery on the subcommittee."

The goal of the subcommittee was to look at the proposed amendment, which was based on what has already been implemented in Henry County. They came to agreement on amendments for the Planning Commission's approval.

Wednesday's meeting started with about a dozen people voicing their concerns, both for and against the CFO's. Some had concerns about air and water contamination. Homeowners who would be impacted by Bowlder Ridge LLC's CFO shared their aggravations. Some who are looking out for the rights of farmers, both young and old, spoke about how they could be positively impacted by CFO's. 

The board then compared the amendments provided by the subcommittee to the original proposal. Some of the ammendments included increasing neighbor notification from 21 days to 30 days, removing points for odor abatement due to the difficulty of enforcement and that owners of CFO's/CAFO's are allowed to build a residential home within 2,640 feet of the animal operation.

However the board has two points that it wants to change. The original proposal has different set back distances between individual residences and subdivisions. The board wants to make that set back distance the same, at half a mile between the foundation of the CFO building and the foundation of the home.

"The discussion is, is one home less valuable than ten in a subdivision," said Frey.

The second point came at the recommendation of local school leaders. The original proposal says CFO's/CAFO's must be half a mile away from schools and incorporated municipalities. The board wants to increase that distance to one mile.

One person sitting in the audience at Wednesday's meeting voiced concerns that there is already limited amounts of space in Montgomery County that accommodate the amendments, and by increasing the school-to-CFO distance to one mile could create even more limitations. Another person who said she was a member of the subcommittee said she was upset to see the board making changes after all the hard work they put into considering the amendments.

"I was disappointed by that," said Frey. "I made sure to contact each of the subcommittee members to ask if they thought this was a fair process and they all said it was. And it was clear to everyone that this is just a starting point. It's my job to lead this group of citizens and get the feedback and input that I, as a commissioner, can take when we make the ultimate decision."

It was brought up that many of the parts of the ordinance are interconnected, and once you change one thing you have to look at others, especially when it comes to the points system used to grade CFO/CAFO owners.

The ordinance the Planning Commission is creating is simply a recommendation to the county commissioners, who will make the final decsions. No motion was made by the Planning Commission board members to pass the amendments and two changes. The board members will take time to review those two changes over the next month and will revisit the ordinance at the December 20th meeting.

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