The Starke County Plan Commission will decided to gather more information before approving updates to its confined animal feeding ordinance. A public hearing was held on the proposed updates during Wednesday’s meeting.
Among the proposed changes is the addition of a “Confined Feeding Operation” category to the ordinance, as a somewhat smaller version of the “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation” already listed. Another proposed addition would require operations falling into either of those categories to receive a special exception in order to be placed within a half-mile of land zoned for non-agricultural uses.
Plan Commissioner Betty Dotlich says a pre-application form has been put together, to gather information about potential operations. “We developed a form, based on this ordinance if it’s approved, of what we would like them to turn in when they’re applying for the CAFO or CFO permit,” she says. “And then they would attach to that their route permit from the county highway garage, any written permission, if it’s required, for any variations from setbacks, and their IDEM application packet as well, so we have all the information that IDEM has.”
The existing ordinance calls for a certain distance between CAFOs or their waste management systems and non-farm houses, depending on whether or not any odor control measures are used. However, some residents in attendance questioned whether more odor restrictions could be put into place, should operators choose to use animal manure as fertilizer on their land. Several plan commissioners expressed their belief that restrictions on manure placement were beyond the commission’s scope, instead falling under the Indiana Department of Environmental Management or the State Chemist’s Office.
Plan Commission Attorney Martin Bedrock said that while it’s unlikely the state would allow Starke County to impose stricter regulations, there’s no harm in asking. “If they say no, then we’re stuck with what they’ve established as the standards,” he said. “But if they say that we can impose stricter standards, then we’ll have to deal with that.”
The plan commissioners decided to delay final approval of the ordinance, while they gather more information from the state.