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Zoning approves hog operation in Clifty Township

It was long, contentious meeting of the Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday night. One member opined that it might have been record-breaking, in that it lasted just a little more than seven hours.

The meeting was a specially-called one to hear a proposal for a four-thousand head confined feeding operation (CFO) for hogs in the eastern portion of the county. The Gelfius family proposed the operation on County Road 200 North near Anderson Falls Park in Clifty Township. The one building is set to be about a half-mile from the roadway.

Monday night's meeting was held inside of the Columbus City Hall meeting room in anticipation of a large turnout. That anticipation was justified, as it was standing-room only for the 6 p.m. meeting, with a large majority staying until the meeting was adjourned at 1 a.m.

Dozens of people spoke both for, and against, the operation. Emotions ran high several times as opponents of the CFO applauded and showed approval for other speakers who shared their opinion, in spite of frequent admonitions of Board Chairman Dewayne Hines, who urged decorum and respect for the Gelfius family.

Opponents of the proposal told the board that they were concerned with the potential for odors, increased truck traffic on sub-standard county roads and the operation's effect on neighbors' property values in the future. Other opponents stressed worries about the possibility of contaminated groundwater, disease and the unknown. A few people raised concerns about what they perceived as conflict-of-interest on the part of a pair of board members who did not recuse themselves, as well as alleged legal maneuvering by the applicants that they say were not above-board. Another opponent promised a legal challenge if the board approved the proposal.

Supporters cited the character of the Gelfius family, their history in agriculture and legal standards, that they argued, were met. Other supporters urged board members to not listen to those who fear that approval could lead to a calamity. One supporter urged approval of the request, citing the need of the American farmer and referred to many of those opposing the CFO as "declaring war on confined feeding operations, not stopping until they are driven away from America."  

In the end, the Gelfius CFO was approved on a vote of 3 to 1. Board member Roger Glick abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest. Gil Palmer was the lone "no" vote.

Members of the Gelfius family say they anticipate construction on the CFO will begin this fall.

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 01, 2014 1:51:05 AM

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