After public outcry about a hog farm's proposed expansion near Spiceland, the Henry County Commissioners have adopted a moratorium on all building permits for confined animal feeding operations here.
However, the commissioners say, the permit issued earlier this spring to 4D Livestock, which wants to double the size of its operation at 1669 W. Road 700S, cannot be revoked. And the decision on whether the expansion moves forward will be up to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
After a contentious meeting that went on for about three hours on Wednesday night, Kim Cronk, president of the commissioners, said the county wants to make sure from now on that the public has input on CAFO permits.
"We need to take some action," Kim Cronk said in an interview.
Trent Dishman and his brother, Brandon Dishman, operate 4D Livestock. They want to expand their hog farm from two barns and 8,000 hogs to four barns with 16,000 hogs.
However, because of the size of the barns and the number of hogs, the Dishmans didn't have to go before the planning commission for a public hearing. Instead, they were automatically given the building permit.
On Wednesday, about 50 people showed up for a commissioners meeting, in which the commissioners, who apparently have little say in whether the expansion will be approved by IDEM, took public comment on the matter.
And for 90 minutes, about a dozen Henry County residents spoke out against the Dishmans' plans. They said the expansion would be dangerous for both the health of neighbors and for development at the Interstate 70 and Ind. 3 interchange.
Spiceland resident Gus Mondrush presented a medical study that connected swine feeding operations to asthma symptoms in adolescents.
"I'm concerned for them," Mondrush said of his four grandchildren. "I'm so concerned that I have recommended to my son that he put his house up for sale."
Likewise, Spiceland resident Sally Wilson begged the commissioners to help stop 4D Livestock's expansion.
"We need help," Wilson said. "We need to not be crushed again by big agribusiness."
Currently, IDEM is reviewing 4D Livestock's request for a permit to add two barns and 8,000 pigs to its operation.
IDEM will hold an open house concerning the matter from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday in Hoover Hall.
Throughout Wednesday's commissioners meeting, residents voiced doubt that IDEM would reject the permit request.
Mark Cronk, a Democratic Henry County commissioner candidate, said the county needs to create its own protection to give the public a chance to stop CAFOs.
"Those people who are going to make that decision probably don't live in our neighborhood," Mark Cronk said.
Henry County Councilman Richard Bouslog agreed. He said the 4D Livestock expansion could be damaging for the growth of the interchange, which is near the current hog farm's location.
"IDEM should listen to the people who live in that area," Bouslog said.
He added, "You have to think about the welfare of the people of Henry County first."
John Montgomery of Montgomery's Steakhouse at the interchange also spoke out on Wednesday. He said he's invested about $2 million at the interchange. Montgomery said he couldn't believe that he and other members of the public would have no say in whether the hog farm can expand.
"I am not going to accept that as an answer," Montgomery said.
One resident, Bob Hammersmith, even suggested residents could gather together to challenge 4D Livestock's expansion plans in court.
"I think there are enough people in the county who would support stopping this," Hammersmith said.
As the meeting went on, both Brandon and Trent Dishman watched from the audience. The Dishmans said little during the meeting, expect that they followed the steps to get permits for their expansion that county employees told them to.
"Each time we were reassured, 'This is what you need,'" Trent Dishman said.
At one point on Wednesday, Commissioner Bill Cronk said at the next planning commission meeting, he will propose changes in county zoning laws to make sure CAFOs cannot expand or locate in the county without public input again.
Commissioner Kim Cronk said the moratorium will give the county time to develop the proper rules to regulate CAFOs here.
Previously, other counties' moratoriums on CAFOs, including one in Randolph County, have been challenged in court. Asked about that, Kim Cronk said the legality of the moratorium is questionable.