A Freetown man and his son have cleared another hurdle in their efforts to build an 8,000-head confined animal feeding operation.
In a 4-0 vote, with one member absent, the Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday approved the special exception for the early-wean-to-finish hog operation proposed by James Lucas and his son, Matthew.
The two 4,000-head barns would be set on 159.37 acres at 1502 W. County Road 300N in Brownstown Township. This is a zoned agricultural flood plain.
About 25 people attended the public hearing at the courthouse in Brownstown, and no one offered new evidence in favor or against the operation.
The family’s request had been tabled since January because at that time the Lucases still needed approval from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
On Oct. 31, they received that permit. The last step is approval from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The agency regulates building setbacks, manure handling, design and construction and stormwater runoff for large-scale livestock barns. It takes 90 days to review and approve or deny a permit once it’s submitted.
Before the zoning board gave its OK, James Lucas asked to have the application amended. He had met with nearby residents of the proposed operation to come up with a consensus on how he can be a better neighbor.
Corinne Finnerty, an attorney who represents proposal opponents, said there was an agreement to add conditions to the application that will align with the recently revised ordinance in Jackson County.
That ordinance, which hadn’t been updated since 1968, was approved by Jackson County commissioners last month in a 2-1 vote. It will regulate size, placement and odor control of such hog operations.
“Some of the conditions are simply identical or close to the new requirements that have been enacted,” Finnerty said. “Mr. Lucas has agreed to be a responsible neighbor. He’s voluntarily making this happen.”
The conditions include adding buffering and screen planting and installing a vertical biofiltration system or other technologies on all pit exhaust fans to lessen odors, which are both included in the new ordinance.
Also, if James Lucas or a future owner of the property wants to change the odor-abating system, the alternative must be approved by a majority of neighboring property owners. Finnerty named four nearby property owners.
James Lucas said he also will use a manure pit additive to assist in controlling odor.
“If an interested party in the future believes that Mr. Lucas has not fulfilled his promise or commitments that he’s making here, it’s not just the BZA that can enforce them but an interested party,” Finnerty said.
James Lucas said the amendments are an effective way to come to an agreement.
“We feel like this is good citizenship,” he said. “It takes a little give and take to come together and sort things out sometimes.”
The zoning board not only approved Lucas’ amendments but praised both sides for compromising.
“I would like to commend both the Lucases and the opposition for getting together and meeting and talking this out before it ever got here,” said Ralph Collins, a zoning board board member. “If more people would do that, it would make everybody’s life a lot easier and make these proceedings less emotional.”
Board member Sherry Bridges said she hopes that in 10 years the Lucases and his neighbors are still working together.
The Lucases’ hog operation is the second approved by the board this year.
Leah and Kyle Broshears of Seymour received approval in October to build one northwest of county roads 1050E and 200S between Dudleytown and Uniontown. They also are waiting for IDEM approval.
A group of homeowners living near the proposed operation filed a lawsuit asking a judge to annul the decision.
The Lucas and Broshears hog operations will make a total of 11 in Jackson County, according to plan commission records.