Leaders assess controversial animal transformation proposal

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MAXWELL – A farmer and businessman wants to open a factory for processing cow and pork meat.

This would be the first such facility in the county, where an increasing farm-to-table movement is creating nearby processing demand. State government officials, meat industry organizations and local ranchers support the idea, citing the lack of such facilities in the county and long wait times in nearby ones.

A letter from Tyner Pond Farm, based in Hancock County, operated by Chris Baggott, is one of many submitted to the county in support of the proposal.

“As local farmers and producers in Hancock County and surrounding areas, we can attest to the definite need for a local animal processing facility,” the letter said. “We have delays of up to a year to process our livestock due to the lack of local facilities. There is a demand in the industry which cannot be met by the current facilities resulting in the need to travel to other counties in order to complete our processing. “

But residents of a nearby neighborhood, as well as the Hancock County Planning and Zoning Director, aren’t so optimistic about the proposal. They argue that the location of the proposed operation is too close to neighboring homes and that residents are concerned that noise and odors will adversely affect the value of their property.

The county’s zoning appeal board is expected to make a decision on this later this month.

SP Property Investments is proposing the project at 238 N. Main St. in Maxwell, a property it owns where builder Smith Projects operates as well as a commercial building housing an Edward Jones office. The company wants to replace an existing pole barn used to store building materials directly behind or to the west of the commercial building with a 13,800 square foot structure divided into three units. One of the units would be for processing animals and animal products, while the others would be used for cold storage and storage of construction materials. Hours of operation would be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Saturday hours would likely be 7 a.m. to noon, but maybe until 5 p.m. during rush hour. The facility would employ 20 to 25 people, and a retail meat store would go in the part of the commercial building not used by Edward Jones.

The building would be about 132 feet southeast of the Twin Oaks neighborhood and about a quarter of a mile north of Maxwell Middle School.

The project will require a gap

The land is zoned general industrial, which requires a special exception for an animal processing facility approved by the Hancock County Zoning Appeal Board. A deviation would also be required for the building to be 15 feet, instead of the 50-foot rule, from the southern boundary of the property shared with Indiana Automotive Equipment, which supports the proposal.

Jon Smith, founder and CEO of Smith Projects, which is also a cattle breeder, said at last month’s zoning appeal board meeting that the processing facility would be for cattle, pigs and potentially sheep. .

Smith said the animals would be delivered by appointment one day a week, dropped off by a trailer backed by an overhead door in the building, and kept in a pen and stalls inside the facility until they are processed. . He told the Daily Reporter that the building would have a maximum capacity of 20 cows and 40 pigs per week.

“There would be no animals outside the building except when the trailer backs up to drop them off through an overhead door, which is then immediately closed,” Smith said at the zoning board meeting.

Smith also said the building will be air conditioned and heated and its walls will include blocks, two inches of insulation and a washable interior surface. The interior would be pressure washed daily whenever there was a butchering, he said, in accordance with state and federal regulations. The facility would have cement floors with trench drains.

David Spencer, marketing director of NineStar Connect, told the Daily Reporter that a formal application process should precede the connection of the animal processing facility to the company’s wastewater treatment plant in the region.

Brad Gruell, a Hancock County butcher who would oversee the treatment of animals at the facility, said inedible animal remains would be placed in barrels closed with lids and kept in a cooler. A fertilizer company he works with collected the barrels on slaughter days, he continued, adding that when the barrels were returned they had to be clean.

Butchers Gruell for local restaurants and farmers at Tyner Pond Farm. He said a Decatur County slaughterhouse is the only place that will process the animals for him. It is currently booked two months in advance.

“I get phone calls every other day for the treatment of animals,” he told the Daily Reporter. “I don’t even have a slaughterhouse. There is nowhere to go. Everywhere else, it takes 12 to 18 months to kill an animal. There is just a need. I can’t believe Hancock County doesn’t have such a facility.

Smith said his wait for treatment of animals at a Knightstown facility is currently 18 months.

Inspectors “run a tight ship”

There are a lot of misconceptions about the animal processing industry, Gruell said.

“I have inspectors at my house every day,” he said. “They run a tight ship. There is more to it than people think. They settle everything.

State inspectors monitor cleanliness, pest control, paperwork and even weed height outside, Gruell said.

Smith said the facility would not be intrusive for owners and residents nearby, adding that they would not be able to hear any noise from the animals except perhaps briefly during disembarkation, and would not see any of the animals or be exposed to any unpleasant odor.

“It will not affect their lives in any way other than giving them the opportunity to purchase local farm-to-table meat products,” Smith told The Daily Reporter. “It will enhance this area.

Andrew Carty, director of economic development for the Indiana Department of Agriculture, supported Smith’s proposal at the zoning board meeting. He said plans like Smith’s represent a “critical need,” adding that there are about 100 to 150 small animal processors in Indiana who process less than 1% of all animals in the state.

State Representative Bob Cherry R-Greenfield also spoke in favor of the proposal, referring to the upward trend in farmers’ markets and farm-to-table food. He noted that the latest state budget includes more funds for Indiana Board of Animal Health inspectors due to demand for smaller processing facilities.

Indiana Pork, Indiana Meat Packers & have also filed Letters of Support with the County; Processors Association, Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Brown Township, Jackson Township, Adkins Freezer Beef, Indiana Angus Association, Leaning Pines, Wensel Farms, Landuyt Ranch and Fout Family Farms.

Neighbors find a key ally

The county received correspondence from seven opponents and a petition with more than 50 signatures. Odor, noise and negative effects on property values ​​are among the concerns of opponents.

Susan Honcharuk, a resident of Twin Oaks, and several of her neighbors said at the zoning board meeting that the site for the proposed facility was inappropriate.

“I think it’s an industry that’s needed, and I think they have great skills to do it,” Honcharuk said. “The problem is the location.

Nicholas Grzych said there is an abundance of better suited areas in the county for the installation of the facility.

“It seems a little strange to try to cram one here between a school and a very busy neighborhood,” he said.

Mike Dale, executive director of the Hancock County Regional Planning Commission and Zoning Appeal Board, gave an unfavorable recommendation to the proposal.

“I have a strong empathy for the residents of the Twin Oaks neighborhood,” said Dale. “They have invested a lot of time and a large part of their life in this neighborhood. Many of them lived there for many, many years. They are already very disappointed that the county has given an industrial zoning to the site and therefore they consider it one more offense, if you will, coming to the Twin Oaks neighborhood… ”

He believes an animal processing facility would produce an environment incompatible with neighboring residential properties.

“And the proposal does not, in my opinion, meet the objective of the zoning ordinance, which is to promote compatibility between land uses,” he said. “In my opinion, that would be an incompatible use. “

Smith countered that in order to have an animal processing facility on his farm he would need industrial zoning and utility-provided sewer and water service, which he would not able to achieve.

Better sites available elsewhere?

Dale estimated that there are thousands of acres of industrial zoned land with proper access to utilities, especially in Mt. Comfort space. In light of the support of the big players for the proposal, he asked why they had not joined forces and formed a cooperative to carry out the project in a more suitable location.

Smith’s proposal indicates that 4,200 square feet of the 13,800-square-foot building would be used for processing animals. However, he asked at the zoning council meeting if it could be approved for no more than 6,000 square feet, explaining that the exact sizes of the coolers and freezers had not yet been determined.

Chris Isom, counsel for the board, cautioned against this, calling it a substantial change that the public outside the meeting had not yet been made aware of. He advised the council to pursue the matter until its July meeting, giving Smith the opportunity to properly inform surrounding landowners of his exact intentions.

This will also give Smith the option to include the correct proposed hours of operation, as they were listed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Monday in his original statement of intent.

Additionally, the prorogation means that a full zoning appeals board might be able to review the proposal, as only three of the five members were able to attend the June meeting.

If you are going to

WHAT: Hancock County Zoning Board Appeal Meeting

WHEN: 6.30 p.m. Thursday July 29

O: Hancock County Annex, 111 American Legion Place, Greenfield

WHY: Council will consider a proposal for an animal processing facility in Maxwell

In one look

Proposed animal processing facility

  • 238 N. Main St., Maxwell
  • SP Property Investments (Smith Projects)
  • 13,800 square foot building
  • Maximum capacity of 20 cows, 40 pigs per week
  • Meat retail operation
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