Not all counties are created equal when it comes to zoning. Recently, I’ve been involved in a number of zoning disputes in different Indiana counties. It’s remarkable to me that a farm situated on a county line—as many farms are—will face drastically different zoning requirements depending on which side of the county line the farmer decides to build a new livestock barn.
At one extreme are counties with no zoning at all. There are at least a dozen counties where farmers face no zoning hurdles when deciding whether to expand their farms. Build it wherever you want—the county won’t interfere.
The other extreme occurs where a county passes a “moratorium” on construction of new concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Some counties have attempted to pass outright bans on new livestock facilities of a certain size. But, there are also indirect zoning moratoriums. These are zoning ordinances that allow CAFOs but, upon closer reading, it is almost impossible to find a location—anywhere in the county—that meets the zoning ordinance requirements. In essence, CAFOs are allowed but there is nowhere to put them.
There are also zoning ordinances with every conceivable requirement that must be met before construction may begin. This includes meeting certain setbacks from churches, schools, other residents, etc. Some of these make sense, but others do not. What exactly is the reason we don’t want hogs living within a half mile of a church that is only visited one day per week? Other ordinances require certain manure management practices, something typically left to the state to regulate.
Zoning ordinances can be a stimulus for or an impediment to economic growth. Depending on where a farm is located, a zoning ordinance can have a big impact on whether that farm can expand or not.
Todd Janzen grew up on a Kansas farm and now practices law with Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, which has offices in Indianapolis and South Bend. He also serves as General Counsel to the Indiana Dairy Producers and writes regularly about agricultural law topics on his blog: JanzenAgLaw.com. This article is provided for informational purposes only. Readers should consult legal counsel for advice applicable to specific circumstances.
Submitted by: Todd J. Janzen, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP