CAFO Permit Fees Amended by Starke County Plan Commission

 Permit fees for concentrated animal feeding operations were revisited Wednesday by the Starke County Plan Commission.

Back in July, the plan commission decided that the $250 fee per structure was too low, considering the size of many such operations, and decided to simply place CAFOs into the category of commercial and industrial buildings. However, the revised fee of 20-cents per square foot, up to a maximum of $5,000 was considered too high by many farmers. Now, plan commissioners hope they’ve found the sweet spot with a fee of $500 per CAFO structure.

That result came after a bit of discussion involving various parties. Attorney Jim Federoff appeared on behalf of the Indiana Pork Advocacy Coalition. He says that Indiana law appears to limit how much revenue may be generated from permit fees. “The fee has to be reasonable and it has to be rationally related to the purpose of the fee, which in this case is an ILP,” he said. “Based on my experience doing land use law and from what I can see applicable in Starke County, I think the last amendment with a fee up to $5,000 for CAFOs for an ILP would not be consistent with the law.”

But Plan Commission Director Terry Stephenson noted that CAFO permitting can mean a lot of work for his department if all the steps are properly followed. “If they would call for the number of inspections they’re supposed to call for, which would be eight to 10, there’s a lot of administrative fees,” he said.

Plan Commission Attorney Martin Bedrock pointed out that Starke County’s updated proposal is comparable to fees seen in other counties. “Ours is not out of line,” Bedrock said. “Ours is a flat $500 fee, which will take in all the costs of all the inspections, and there’s no additional, like in Marshall County, they charge $800 plus twenty- cents per square foot over a certain size, I guess. So $500 is not out of line with all the surrounding counties.”

To help offset some of the administrative costs of processing CAFO applications, the plan commission decided to add a $75 filing fee to the $500 permit, due to the steps required to process the applications. Plan commissioners also decided to double the re-inspection fee to $100 for all permits. It’s charged when the county is called out to conduct an inspection, but the work is deemed to be incomplete.

The Starke County Plan Commission approved the changes unanimously.