Warrick zoning board votes in favor of egg facility

PUBLISHED: Nov. 29, 2017

BY: Shannon Hall, Courier & Press reporter

A controversial egg production facility in Warrick County took a step closer to reality Monday night.

The Warrick County Board of Zoning Appeals voted 6-1 to approve a special use application by Prime Foods Inc. to build a confined-feeding operation for laying hens. Board member Doris Horn voted against the special use application.

Prime Foods Inc. now will have to request a confined feeding permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which oversees confined feeding facilities.

“Way to ruin our homes,” residents said to the board after the vote came down, clapping sarcastically.

The proposed site of the facility is east of Indiana 61 between Kelly and Hart roads.

Warrick County resident Vickie Erwin didn’t expect the board to vote in her favor. Erwin lives off Kelly Road, and her main worries for the facility are health and air concerns. She also thinks there will be more traffic thanks to the more than 20 trucks a day Prime Foods expects.

“We’ll continue the battle,” she said. “I’m just happy for the one no vote.”

Residents living near the proposed site spoke at length against the facility during an October meeting that lasted 10 hours. Public comment stretched into the early hours of the morning.

Several hundred letters were sent to the plan commission office in September and October opposing the project. Most were concerned about air quality, health effects from the facility and property values dropping. About 200 of them were form letters signed by different people. Others told personal stories and how the writers and other residents may be affected by the facility.

“Air and water pollution from the alleged 2 million chickens will be a curse upon all of the Boonville residents and more so on the many families that live very close to the complex,” Jeremy and Sarah Putnam wrote in one letter. “We wonder about the 2 million chickens’ future after they stop making eggs. Will this also turn into a slaughter house for them?”

The next step for Prime Foods, after applying with IDEM, will be notifying all property owners within a one-half mile radius of the proposed location. IDEM will then accept written public comments for 33 days following the applicant’s mailing to required property owners, according to the IDEM’s website.

Prime Foods Attorney Chris Wischer said the remonstrators can file a motion against the BZA’s approval within 30 days of the board’s decision, but that won’t stop the application process unless a court orders it stopped.

He’s not sure when Prime Foods will apply with IDEM.

Prime Foods already has an egg-processing facility off Indiana 62, but no birds are contained on that property. The new facility would allow as many as 2 million chickens at the facility. Ron Bennett, Prime Foods chief operating officer, previously said the company wants to start with about 500,000 chickens and gradually move up to 2 million.

Warrick County resident Paula McGuire said when people move to an area zoned agricultural, “you can’t tell someone else what to do” with their property. Having a confined feeding facility fits in with land zoned agricultural.

McGuire, who has cattle near the proposed facility, said if people want to live in a residential area, they should do that rather than near open agricultural land.

She said she doesn’t think there will be problems with the smell. McGuire visited a similar facility in Kentucky and she didn’t smell anything

“I wouldn’t blink an eye to move there at all,” she said.

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