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 Planning Commission Hearing Will Detail Proposed Changes in Development Code

August 15, 2007 - When it meets Thursday, August 23, the Henry County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the county's Development Code that could provide a way around a court ruling that blocked efforts to locate a confined animal feeding operation in Spiceland.

Henry Circuit Court Judge Mary Willis ruled June 14 that the county's Development Code prohibited 4-D Livestock, LLC, from constructing and operating a CAFO at 1669 W. CR 700-S. Because there are least two residential structures within 2,000 feet of the site of the proposed CAFO, which would have held up to 8,000 heads of swine, Willis found that earlier rulings by the Planning Commission and Henry County Board of Zoning Appeals in favor of the CAFO had violated distance requirements set forth in the Development Code.

As currently written, the Henry County Development Code does not permit CAFOs within 2,000 feet of a residential district or use. In making her ruling, Willis sided with challengers to the 4-D CAFO, who argued that the 2,000 foot restriction does not apply to only those residences that lie within residential districts. Instead, the petitioners argued, and Willis agreed, that the distance requirement also applies to residential uses in non-residential zoned areas like the A-1 agricultural district at issue here.

"The Development Code is clear and unambiguous in the provision which states that the (commission approved use) may not be located closer to an RR, R1, R2 R3 or RMH District or an existing residential use," Willis wrote in her ruling. "The Board of Zoning Appeals granted a (commission approved use) contrary to the clear language of the Development Code. The use of the word 'or' is used in the disjunctive and effect must be given to the plain words used by the drafters."

The proposed amendments to the Development Code that the Planning Commission will consider at the public hearing would delete the disjunctive "or" and references to "residential uses" in the part of the code dealing with CAFOs and other commission approved uses. The intended effect of these changes, according to Terri Roberts, the Planning Commission's zoning administrator, would be that the distance requirements set forth in this part of the Development Code would only apply to residential districts, and not to residential uses in other nonresidential districts.

Roberts told The Banner on Monday that members of the Planning Commission voted 5-4 last month to proceed with a public hearing, which is required before their vote. If the commission passes the amendments, she said the matter will then go the Henry County Commissioners, whose three members will make the final vote that is needed to amend the Development Code.

The August 23 public hearing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the old Circuit Courtroom in the Henry County Courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle. A copy of the proposed amendments is available in the office of the Henry County Zoning Administrator, 1201 Race St., Suite 214, New Castle.

The Planning Commission will accept comments from the public during the August 23 hearing. The commission will also consider written objections to the proposed changes that are filed prior to the hearing.


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