This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Robotic dairy farms

On Monday night the Board of Zoning Appeals met to discuss several requests for exceptions and variances. First on the agenda was a request for a two-year extension that allowed a mobile home to be on a property in Keener Township. The mobile home was occupied by the mother of the person who owned the house on the property and it was located there because the mother had medical problems and needed to be near someone who could check on her and help her. The extension passed.

The next items were for an exception and a variance for Bos Dairy farms near 1000W and 700N. The site currently has a large dairy operation, but the owners want to erect a large barn 304' by 308' that will house 700 to 750 cows. The facility was described as a robotic cow barn. The cows would decide when they wanted to be milked and would use a robotic milking machine. The barn would have twelve of these machines, though because the cows would be separated into six different areas, only two would be available to any cow. The bedding for the cows would be a giant water bed, made up of two layers of plastic with water between. This would allow mechanical scrapers to clean the barn. Apparently this barn would be a test of a concept--it is cutting edge and maybe even bleeding edge technology. It seems that the rotary milking platform that we see on a tour of Fair Oaks Farms may be obsolete in the not-to-distant future.

I think the exception was needed because whenever a confined feeding operation expands, it needs to file for an exception. The variance was needed because the new operation will not be 1000 feet from an existing county road. This requirement is fairly new--it was not in force when the dairy was built eleven years ago. 700N, the road in question here, dead ends before the dairy because it was cut by I-65. The attorney for the dairy said that requiring the setback would make no sense given that the road was used almost exclusively by the dairy and that the dairy maintained it. Also placing the expansion outside the footprint of the existing dairy would be expensive, use crop land, and might create environmental problems. Both the variance and the exception were approved. The dairy still must get approval from IDEM and the Drainage Board.

The last issue of the night was for a commercial garage in Carpenter Township. The property in question has been vacant for a couple years and was previously a tire store. The current owner, who teaches at SJC, wants to have a business that repairs and sells semi trucks. He currently has a business that exports large trucks and construction equipment. His request for a special exception was granted.

The BZA (and I think also the Planning Commission) had a training meeting recently in which they reviewed procedures. As a result, those who are making requests are now asked to submit a findings of fact report, something that was not done in the past. I think this is the result of complaints raised by a member of the public at several meetings.

After the meeting I talked to the reporter from the Rensselaer Republican, which has not recenlty been covering the BZA meetings. She said that she had for a number of years covered meetings in Newton County. I guess meetings are more contentious there and often quite long. Currently the Newton County Commissioners and the Newton County Council are having a dispute over a proposal to hire a firm to recommend ways to cut the budget.

For the obligatory picture, here is what the spring thaw has done to one of the county roads just north of Rensselaer. I am sure there many other places where you can see similar break up.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the your road picture: It's weird, some county roads do not appear to be affected at all (at least not yet), and the road we live on, for at least a mile stretch it is horrible. I have a car and I'm almost afraid to drive on the road. I sit lower to the ground and the road has heaved up so much that even though I'm driving on "my side" (and not in the center of the road) I still have pieces hitting the bottom of my car. Went 20 MPH through most of it this morning. The difference between AM and PM is astounding as the road continues to deteriorate. It doesn't take days for it to get worse, it takes hours! Crazy!

Friar Framl said...

One ought to see the pot holes here in the Nation's capitol. they make that stretch of road look like freshly laid pavement.