By Sarah Ash Simpson, JD
Assistant Director, Regulatory Affairs, Indiana State Department of Agriculture
It is no secret that solid land-use planning lays the foundation for effective economic and residential development. Planning also creates a more harmonious community.
In the months since the Indiana Land Resources Council finalized recommendations for model agricultural zoning ordinances, several local governments have implemented these concepts as they developed land use plans. Rush, Porter and Marshall counties have all passed model ordinance concepts. Wells County has an ordinance that is currently pending. These tools have enabled local government leaders to adapt the recommendations to their community’s needs.
Rush County has been especially progressive and incorporated both a site scoring system and multi-tiered agriculture zones. The site scoring system takes a science-based approach to land use by awarding points based on factors including odor abatement, traffic impact, section density, aesthetics, utility service and whether the land is tillable or suitable for housing. These regulations complement existing state and federal environmental regulation. Wells County is also considering a site scoring system.
The multi-tiered agriculture zones identify rural land for specific purposes, such as residential development, light agriculture and agribusiness. This approach addresses the land-use needs of agriculture, while also accommodating rural residential development. Rush County now has zones for rural residence, agribusiness and regulated livestock.
Both Porter and Marshall counties have incorporated an agricultural clause ordinance. This means that individuals who choose to move into an agricultural zone must sign a document indicating they are aware that they may experience noise, dust and odor associated with general farm practices. This agreement is used as a condition to residential development in an agriculture zone.
In addition to the work described in the counties above, ISDA has produced a document called Local Officials and Regulating Livestock Production, which outlines the legal responsibilities of state and local government. This document has been used to help local officials assess the legality of their proposed regulations. ISDA staff is available to provide this assistance to any county upon request.
As Rush, Porter, Marshall and Wells counties have demonstrated, developing effective land use that recognizes the multiple needs of a healthy community promotes not only good neighbor relationships, but also economic development. In this environment, rural Indiana will thrive. Communities can learn more about the model ordinances and find a complete description on the ISDA website at www.in.gov/isda.