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330044

Preparing for a zoning hearing

Farmers and landowners can do a few things to improve their chances of obtaining the necessary county zoning approval for a new project. 

In Indiana, the fight against livestock or solar farms seems to have moved to the county level. Interest groups are mobilizing to remonstrate against agriculture. Farmers and landowners can do a few things to improve their chances of obtaining the necessary county zoning approval for a new project. 

1. Transparency. Be open with county officials regarding your project. Explain what you want to do, when you want to do it, and answer questions to the best of your ability. Do not mischaracterize your intended project. If you can't answer a question, direct the county official to contact your attorney and/or consultant.

2. Education. Many people today do not understand what a modern livestock farm or solar project looks like. In some cases, offering a tour of an existing facility can be helpful. Some remonstrators may withdraw their opposition to your project if they better understand how the facility will work, how it protects against environmental impacts, and how it will boost the local economy. Farmers Deliver is a program that provides additional information on the economic impact of livestock farms in Indiana and Nebraska. Of course some remonstrators will never change their point of view, but it can still be advantageous to educate them as best you are able. Education is also a general best management practice to be a good neighbor.

3. Support. The importance of having supporters attend relevant zoning meetings cannot be overstated. This may balance against the remonstrators who attend such meetings to express opposition to an agricultural project. The goal is to have the county officials decide the matter based on its merits.

4. Preparation. I've written about how to prepare for zoning meetings before. In addition to the tips in that article, remember you are creating a record for any potential appeal down the road. Thus, even in the face of stiff vocal opposition, you should introduce all the evidence and testimony you had originally planned.  

Being prepared at the county level is one step you can take to improve your chances of success. 

Editor's Note: This post is not legal advice. If you have zoning questions, you should contact an attorney.

About the Author: Brianna J. Schroeder grew up on a family farm in northeastern Indiana. Her legal practice, Janzen Schroeder Ag Law, focuses on farmers and agribusinesses. Schroeder has litigated complex environmental and agricultural matters, including insurance coverage, regulatory compliance, tort claims, zoning appeals, and employment claims. She also negotiates and drafts contracts for agricultural companies and farms, including solar leases and employment agreements. Schroeder is licensed in Indiana and Illinois and has represented a wide variety of clients from start-up companies and livestock farmers to large agricultural businesses, trade groups, and municipalities.

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