Applications to create egg laying operations in County causing controversy


The meeting of the Switzerland County Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday, April 20th is shaping up as a complicated game of ‘Chicken’.

About 40,000 of them, actually.

Plans have been submitted by applicants that, if approved, who allow the construction and operation of chicken egg laying farms in two different locations here in Switzerland County.

One of the locations is on Bear Branch Road at Goodner Road, just north of Fairview; while the second is at the intersection of Truitt Road and State Road 250, approximately two miles from Switzerland County Elementary School.

Both plans were listed in the public notices of the March 3rd, 2016 issue of the Vevay newspapers. The petitioners for the special exception for the location on Goodner Road are Marlin Miller, D. Rolland Goodner, and Marilyn Goodner; while the petitioners for the special exception on Truitt Road are Christian Beechy and Katie I. Beechy.

Switzerland County Building Inspector Mark Archer has been working on different aspects of the applications, which would create ‘free range’ chicken farms.

“What these guys are wanting to do, it’s a newer company established up in Northern Indiana (Egg Innovations),” Archer said. “Most of their people that they furnish the chickens to are Amish. The way this company’s doing it, they require farmers to have 50 acres. They will be building a building, 52-feet wide by 520-feet long, to house 20,000 chickens to lay eggs; and then sell the eggs.”

Archer said that the 50 acres is fenced in, and the chickens are given the opportunity to go outside during the daytime and come in at night.

“Chickens would be on the premises anywhere from 12 to 14 months; and then they swap them out; take a month to clean out the barn and disinfect, and then they get a new bunch and start all over,” Archer said.

Archer said that the property does not have to be re-zoned, because both tracts of land are already zoned for agriculture.

“In our current ordinance book, there is a section for special exceptions,” he said. “And I asked that they do a special exception to do ‘restricted commercial farm enterprise’. And to do that, you have to notify all of the adjoining landowners. Have a public hearing, and then ask for the special exception. (Special Exception #48 in the ordinance book).”

Archer said that the paperwork had to be presented to him, which he then sends to the planning commission and the board of zoning appeals.

“You just have to do a developmental plan, and have an air and water control plan put together,” Archer said. “A plan for the dead storage and what you’re going to do there; and then you’ve got to meet some state requirements along the way, too.”


Archer said that the planning commission and the board of zoning appeals had a meeting last week, but neither board had legal counsel at the meeting, so the matter was tabled.

“It is now scheduled to go back before the planning board on April 20th at 6 p.m.,” Archer said. “The planning board, they could – if it meets all the regulations of the all of the paperwork being filed on time – could send it straight to the zoning board. They don’t have to hear the presentation. I’m not sure if they want to hear it; if they do, they can, but I’m not sure what they’re going to do there.”

Archer said that the zoning board has the final say in the matter; and because both boards meet on the same day one right after the other, it could move through both on April 20th.

“There’s a possibility we might have to move the meeting. If we do, I’ll post it on the courthouse doors prior,” Archer said. “We had it down in the commissioners room last week, and it was pretty full. I would say there will be a few more next time; plus the guys who are filing the petitions, they do have a little video that they want to show people.”

The company behind the applications, according to Archer, is Kentucky Pasture Poultry, but there are two members of the Amish community, both of whom currently live on Goodner Road; while the applicant for the Truitt Road operation is planning on building a house there and will live on the property.

So: if the two applications are in line with county and state zoning laws, can they be denied at the county level?

“In the past, they have,” Archer said of zoning board decisions. “But the zoning board can also put more restrictions on it, like stream planning. I don’t know what else you would put on it, because to me it’s a pretty good product that way the presentation’s been made. All I do is get the paperwork and take the minutes. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I know there was quite a few people from the Bear Branch area that was down at the meeting the last time. There wasn’t nearly as many from the other partial.”

Archer said that the man who has already built two operations over in Owen County, Kentucky; and that he has invited anyone who wants to come over and tour his facility to call and make arrangements to do so.

“He needs a little notice, because you have to suit up to protect from diseases,” Archer said. “I drove by them after I came back from the stock yards. I know they had one building in operation, I don’t think the other one is yet; but he did say that the one building is about ready to run the first bunch of hens, to get rid of them and clean it out; so if somebody wants to go, that building’s probably going to smell as bad as it would ever smell, in my opinion.”

Archer said that, as for the manure that is produced, the operators have options.

They can sell it to local farmers; or it can be hauled off site to places further away who will want to buy it, because it will all be organic.

“From what I’ve found on their website and other sites, they seem to have a pretty good product and try to take care of their chickens in a humane way,” Archer said. “Compared to what we’re used to out in North Vernon where they’re stacked on top of each other.”

Archer said that concerns voiced at the last meeting included property values; and in response to that concern he contacted officials in counties up in Northern Indiana where these types of operations are currently underway, and he found that there had been no change in property values.

Archer said that even though neither board had legal representation at the last meeting, the board did allow the petitioners to go ahead with a presentation; and then they took questions from concerned community members.

“There was a question on water runoff on the Laughery Creek Watershed, because that’s where the one on Bear Branch Road would go,” Archer said. “So I don’t know if they are going to do a water study or not. They did say that they were going to look into trying to do one before the next meeting.”

Archer said that if the zoning board would deny the application; the petitioners can re-apply in 30 days; and then if it is denied a second time, then the petitioner has to wait one year before they can re-file. The County Commissioners are not a part of this decision because there is not a re-zoning application with this. If the project is approved, Archer said that he doesn’t know what the timeline would be to start construction.

For more information on the company, visit


The possibility of one or two commercial egg operations coming to Switzerland County has also created quite a bit of resistance from members of the community. One of the people who has helped shed light on the plan is Rhashell Romans, who has an extensive background in poultry; as she and her family are fixtures in the poultry exhibit area each year at the 4-H Fair.

“I’m just trying to gather information, basically,” Romans said. “Everywhere I go everybody’s got ‘what I heard’ or ‘what said what’. We’re getting no actual facts, so it’s hard to gather.”

She said that she has been told that the county has a 10,000 chicken limit, and that’s trying to be raised to 20,000; and she also says that the justification for raising the limit don’t match up.

“They say that it’s okay because they’re going to be free range and they’re going to be organic,” Romans said. “Well, I know the laws of organic and free range, and there’s many, many loopholes. It sounds great on the surface, but in all reality it’s just factory farming. That’s just what I’m trying to say, because the neighbors, it’s just like all of this has been brought upon us. Nobody knew anything until last week. One of the neighbors called me and she’s like, ‘Yea, I’m like 400 feet from there, and I had no idea this was going on, and my daughter has severe asthma.”

So what about 20,000 chickens?

Romans said that, when talking about 50 acres; that translates to 400 chickens per acre.

“That’s a 50 acre farm, but now what I’ve gotten from the courthouse is, the actual area that the chickens will be in is 15 acres,” she said. “That’s over 1,300 birds per acre. Now that’s a lot of chickens. You can research sustainable farming, and everywhere you look you’re going to find that, in sustainable small farms, you can’t put more than 50 birds per acre, so this is way over the limit of what nature has the ability to take in and turn into good soil and good water, the runoff. This goes way beyond that.”

Romans said that even at the 50 birds per acre suggestion for a sustainable farm, that’s 2 ½ tons of manure per acre per year.

“This is just the manure,” Romans said. “This is not accounting for all of the sawdust that they’re going to be bringing in for bedding. This does not account for all of the dead animals. This does not account for the feathers, all the wasted feed, nothing of that nature. This is just the manure of the chickens alone. There’s many, many loopholes in this.”


Romans said that once the county raises the limit to 20,000 birds, there is no assurance that the next chicken farm to come to Switzerland County will be organic or sensitive to the environment; or it could be a broiler facility rather than an egg laying operation, like the two proposed are.

“Once we open the door to that, that’s probably what we’ll be getting,” Romans said.

Romans said that she’s called Egg Innovations on the phone, and notes that they’ve been very nice on the phone, but then they refer her to a representative who is over each farm.

“When I call the representative, I’m getting no returned phone calls. His voice messages are full; so there’s no way to talk to him,” Romans said. “The whole deal is, this is proposed as good because this is organic. This is free range. Even though when you look into the numbers of the amount of land and all that, the bottom line is, it’s not good. The bottom line is, when you open up this door, you open it up to a lot more.”

Romans said that her research shows that, even if the chickens have access to all 50 acres, the sewage produced is the equivalent of having 6,000 people on that same area.

She said that in Oregon, a study showed that using 200 chickens per acre, the build up was so high that the grass wouldn’t grow.

“They were trying prove that 200 hens were sustainable for sustainable farming, and that didn’t even work,” she said. “So after all the research is done, it’s been proven over and over – it’s 50 chickens.

Because what it does, it builds up the nitrogen, and the nitrogen escapes into the air. And it lowers the toxin levels in the soil.”

Romans said that her research shows that operations like this can have an impact on wildlife in the area and other factors.

“We’re not just talking that this is going to decrease my value, I’m going to smell stink, whatever,” she said. “This is going to show up in people’s wells.”

Again, her main concern is bigger and farther reaching than just these two proposals.

“I do not see where it can be benefiting our community. I don’t see that,” Romans says. “Everywhere I look, down the line, it all comes at a cost.”