The Miami County Planning Commission on Wednesday night responded to residents’ concerns over the recent building of several large hog farms in the county and opted to form a committee to consider changes to county zoning ordinances to help address those concerns.

“That would be our objective, to present something eventually to the commissioners in the way of changes to our ordinances,” Commission President Larry West said at the end of a one-hour meeting, when he floated the idea of the committee and asked for about five residents to volunteer to serve.

He had plenty to choose from.

More than 40 people packed into the G.A.R. Room at the Miami County Courthouse for the 7:30 p.m. meeting to voice their concerns about a Confined Feeding Operation, or CFO, recently greenlighted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, to be built in northern Miami County near the intersection of county roads 500 N and 100 E.

Though criticism was sharp from the crowd, members of which shared concerns ranging from the smell of the roughly 5,000-head operation, to worries over property values, potential environmental impacts and stress on narrow county roads and the potential costs of repairs, West explained that, short of enforcing a 1,000-foot setback to separate such operations from nearby residences, the county had very few mechanisms within the zoning ordinances to address those concerns once a farm clears the IDEM permitting process, so long as the facility is to be built on land that is zoned for agriculture.

This most recent one is still subject to appeal until later this month, West explained.

The large hog raising operations are starting to get the attention of residents.

Two, earlier this year, were given the go-ahead to be built in the southern part of the county and West acknowledged that people expressing interest in building them are becoming more and more common.

A spreadsheet, available through the IDEM website, shows that two other smaller facilities are pending approval right now.

“I wouldn’t say it is a weekly occurence, but they frequently go up, yes,” West said.

Forming the committee, which is expected to review the ordinances of other agricultural counties and make change recommendations, was the only action the planning commission could take Wednesday.

Indeed, West explained, they had no quorum to vote on any official action and there weren’t even items on the night’s agenda.

West said the meeting would have been cancelled, but word got to members that several residents were interested in speaking about the new barn, so they decided to hold the meeting in order to hear those concerns, though he acknowledged that there was little action, if any, that could be taken immediately.

“I am sorry we couldn’t answer a lot of your questions tonight,” he said as the meeting closed, “but we will make an effort to move forward.”
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