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All permit approvals are not alike, INFB specialist explains

Zoning has taken on significant importance with the increased presence of confined feeding operations (often known as CFOs) and continued proposal of new CFO sites in the state. The Interim Study Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources met at the Statehouse three times this year to discuss the proximity to and interaction of CFOs with suburban and urban areas. INFB supports the use of wise, local zoning ordinances to reduce the potential for conflict.

“Approval processes for improvement permits in the 80 counties in Indiana with zoning are varied,” said Greg Slipher, INFB livestock development specialist. Slipher has seen many different methods used throughout the state.

According to Slipher, some of the processes for approval of CFO sites include:

Permitted use in an agriculture zone: This is the most straightforward type of approval. “There is no need for additional action to be taken in this situation,” Slipher said. “It’s an approved use and the applicant meets all of the developmental standards.”

Permitted use that goes through the special exception public hearing: Counties may have a public review process before granting a permit in an agricultural zone. Each proposed CFO permit is subject to a public hearing.

Permitted use in an intense agricultural zone: This process would require a rezoning of the property into a zoning district designated for an Indiana Department of Environmental Management-permitted livestock building. “This process requires a public hearing conducted by the plan commission in order for the plan commission to make a recommendation to the county commissioners,” Slipher said. “Then, there is another public hearing before the county commissioners that takes place before they grant or deny the rezone of the parcel.”

Special exception: Slipher says an applicant must go before the board of zoning appeals for a “Findings of Fact” hearing. If the majority of the entire BZA authorizes the action, the applicant can proceed.

Variance: When an exception to the zoning ordinance is requested, Slipher says, the BZA will hold a public hearing on the matter and make a decision.

Site scoring system: These systems grant permits on the basis of meeting predetermined standards. Slipher says based on the points received, some applicants are given immediate approval if they meet or exceed all criteria. If they fall just short of the required points for automatic approval, applicants must go before the BZA for a public hearing. If the applicant doesn’t meet the minimum standards, the requested permit is denied.