A CFO is a Confined Feeding Operation and is defined in Indiana as any animal feeding operation engaged in the confined feeding of at least 300 cattle, or 600 swine or sheep, or 30,000 fowl.

On Tuesday evening the Plymouth Board of Zoning Appeals heard the request for a Special Use by Kendall and Marcella Hoover at 14029 5C Road north of Plymouth and west of Michigan Road. 

Planning Consultant Ralph Booker explained the project and the standards they need to meet. The property is zoned R-1 Rural Residential for the city.   Booker told the standing room only crowd that if he moved the dairy operation across the street on the field he owns north of the property it would be under the county’s jurisdiction and would not require a hearing because it is zoned Ag.

The Hoovers are planning to have a 250-cow dairy farm on the 41-acer farm.  The building is designed as a free-stall barn with a milk house and parlor.  The home on the property is being renovated because the Hoovers and their 6 children plan to live on site.   

Booker said a mistake was made by the Plymouth Building Inspector who issued a building permit in late summer for a dairy barn, not realizing the size of the operation.  When a concerned neighbor brought the project to light, Booker determined there was a need for a special use.  When the error was discovered in December Mr. Hoover was well underway with construction of the barn.  He was then informed that he would need to apply for a special use from the Plymouth BZA. 

BZA member Mark Gidley asked Building Inspector Keith Hammonds if there were plans presented for the proposed barn when he issued the building permit and he said the Hoovers presented a drawing but not an architectural drawing. Gidley then asked how long the building was and Hammonds said 131 feet.  Gidley said, “It never came to mind, why are we building a 131-foot-long assessor building, that question never came up?” Hammonds said no and also said when he did some inspections it never dawned on him what the operation was.   

Kendall Hoover was then given the opportunity to speak.  He told the board they plan to house 185 mature dairy cows in the free-stall barn.  The loose housing barn will provide deep sand bedded stalls for the cows and the barn will be cleaned automatically up to 8 times a day.  The barn will have automatic ventilation to keep the cows comfortable.  The manure handling for the dairy farm will be stored in pits and applies to the fields in both spring and fall.  The manure will be incorporated under the ground. 

Mr. Gidley asked if the lagoons are lined and Mr. Hoover said they are earthen pits lined with clay or bentonite to keep it from seeping into the ground. 

The public hearing was opened and BZA members first heard from those in favor of the project.  In total 6 people spoke in support of the confined feed operation.  Bob Byers who lives in Argos and works for Central Starke Cooperative as a DHI Technician said he is the Hoovers DHI Technician and was on his farm in Elkhart that morning watching him milk 139 cows.  Byers said he runs a very clean operation. 

Stan Kaser owns the property immediately to the west of the dairy operation and has no opposition to the operation.  He also lives across the road from the Hoover farm.  Mike Heckaman on 18B Road operates a CAFO with 500 head of cattle. He knows Mr. Hoover and tried to assure the board and public that he runs a “Class Act”.  Heckaman said injecting the manure into the fields drastically reduces the small. 

Tim Swihart on 6th Road told the board Hoover would be a good asset to the community and could offer summer jobs to students.

BZA President Art Jacobs then opened the floor for those against the proposed CFO.  There were a total of 12 individuals who spoke with the majority of them being from 5C Road.  Their concerns were proper disposal of the manure, the noise and smell of 250 cattle, the additional truck traffic to which Hoover said the milk truck will come every other day.  Neighbors were also worried about well water contamination, the negative impact on their property values and the condition of the road. 

Kurt Garner who lives on 6th Road east of Michigan Road told the board the density of housing in the area is larger than one would think and the impact to neighbors because of the prevailing winds.  He said, “North Township cannot be a dumping ground for bad decisions.” 

Jeff Baney asked what properties he will apply the manure to and Hoover said he has 160 total where it will go.

BZA member Mark Gidley has been on the board for 15 years.  He said, “I’d say 90% of the cases we approve.  I know there is a general sense that zoning is bad but it exists to protect the future growth of the community.  It’s not anti-agriculture, over the past couple of years we approved lots of ag requests in the 2-mile.”  Gidley continued, “We are not anti-agriculture.  I sit on the board representing the people of the 2-mile.  We are trying to do the best for people in the 2-mile.” 

After closing the public hearing the Plymouth BZA continued their discussion and eventually Keith Wickens made a motion to approve the special use.  The motion was seconded by John Yaden and the board voted 5 yes votes to approve the request.