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Monday, April 13, 2015

Environment - "Porter County residential, agriculture interests clash over proposed pig facility"

That is the headline from a long story in the NWI Times reported by Bob Kasarda. Some quotes:

VALPARAISO | Residential and agricultural interests are clashing over a request for Porter County to rezone 40 acres in Morgan Township to allow for a confined feeding operation designed to raise 5,600 pigs at a time.

Robert Sands, who has been farming in the area for 20 years, said the proposal will allow him to diversify his business and create a new opportunity for his 23-year-old son, Brandon.

"This is my family farm," he said.

But opponents, such as Rebecca Tomerlin, who started an online change.org petition that had generated more than 2,000 signatures by the end of the week, sees the proposed feeding operation as a threat.

She fears real estate values in the area and infrastructure, such as the roads, will suffer, along with groundwater quality. Tomerlin is also concerned about the quality of life for the pigs raised in the confined conditions, but realizes that is not likely an issue the Porter County Plan Commission can consider when it takes up the rezoning request May 27.

"There's nothing wrong with farming," she said. "It's one thing to live next a cornfield, (but) another to live next to a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) for hogs."

Robert Sands declined comment on the concerns, saying he has hired an engineering firm to address all those issues during the May 27 county meeting.

Robert and Tammy Sands have asked the plan commission to change the zoning of the 40-acre site at 181 S. Smoke Road from general agriculture to a high impact use district. The proposed use will also need approval of a special exception from the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals.

As with many similar operations, the family will not own the pigs, the pigs will be the property of a business group; the family will simply tend to them. The story does not go into the financial terms of the related extensive and expensive construction:
The proposal calls for the construction of two 101-by-10-by-245-feet "wean-to-finish pig buildings," according to the application. The buildings will have self-contained, below-building concrete manure storage areas and mechanical ventilation.

Brandon Sands, a student at Ivy Tech's agriculture program, said he was the one to initiate the new pig operation after meeting with representatives of Belstra Group Farms of DeMotte during a career fair.

"It's always been a dream of mine to get back into livestock," he said.

The proposed business deal calls for Belstra to provide and own the pigs, with the Sands family "growing" the animals at its new facilities. * * *

Porter County Plan Commission Executive Director Bob Thompson has said the proposed operation would be the largest of its type in Porter County.

The new high impact zoning sought for the site would also allow for other uses, such as an asphalt plant, amusement park, race track, incinerator, junk yard and prison, unless specifically limited by county officials, he has said.

In other words, the zoning would need to be changed from an agricultural to an industrial designation.

Here is an earlier, April 7th story, by Amy Lavalley of the Gary Post-Tribune. A few quotes:

The concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, is up for a hearing at the plan commission's May 27 meeting. The proposal requires a land rezoning from general agriculture to high impact use because it needs a permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

"These are Valparaiso residents. They are homeowners, and they are not happy about their property values going down or the roads being torn up," Tomerlin said, adding that there are also worries that if the rezoning is approved, there would be nothing to stop the hog operation from growing even larger.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 13, 2015 12:01 PM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government