Dozens of county residents filled the Moody County courtroom on , September 7, to listen and give personal testimony to the board of adjustment while they reviewed four applications for and from confined animal feeding operations.
Because of the interest and large number of attendees, the meeting took place in the courtroom on the third floor of the courthouse rather than in the Farmer’s Room on the first floor.
The board of adjustment met at the beginning of the county commission meeting last week for nearly two hours.
The four items reviewed and discussed at the meeting included Ryan Zwart’s conditional use permit application for a class “C” CAFO, Golden Dakota Farms’s application for a second one-year extension on their existing class “A” CAFO and Mossing’s Dairy’s application for both a variance and conditional use permit for a proposed expansion to their current class “A” facility.
Ryan Zwart filed on August 16, 2017, an application for a class “C” confined animal feeding operation for 2,400 head of finishing swine.
Notice of public hearing was published on August 23 and notification was sent to all adjoining landowners within one mile of the proposed site on August 17.
Jefferson Township and Highway Superintendent Marc Blum were notified of the request and both parties approved with the condition of a road haul agreement be put in place.
Big Sioux Rural Water was notified August 18 and also approved.
The proposed site would house 720 animal units located five miles north of Colman on 470th Avenue. The proposed site plan has met setbacks according to county ordinance.
Zwart also has plans to build a shelter belt on two sides of the facility.
Eight people, including county residents and neighbors who live in the area, came forward to speak with the board about their concerns, including Janelle Weatherly.
Weatherly said her first concern was the odor, that reduction of smell with a shelterbelt hasn’t really been proven and that the trees may need 10 to 15 years before they’re tall enough to be effective.
She also said it’s a good time to consider how many animals the land in the county can support.
“I think we are at the point in the county we need to start thinking about odor of animals and how much crop land we’re applying manure to,” Weatherly said.
Several neighbors of the proposed site voiced serious concerns about health, property values and how their lives would be affected by the facility.
One worry was if someone had to sell her property because of health issues, she would find no buyers because no one wants to live near an animal confinement.
Jamie Von Eye said he’s not opposed to the confinement, but he is opposed to the facility being built where several people already have retirement homes and plan to stay for the rest of their lives.
He said the Right to Farm Act was created to protect farms already in an area, and this CAFO is not one of them.
Dusty LeBrun told the commissioners he farms land half a mile away from other pig farms and has never noticed an issue with the smell. He said he has no concerns with this facility.
Kendra Eng, deputy of planning of zoning, said Zwart’s letter of assurance will have to be approved by Department of Environment and Natural Resources and that his permit through the county will be contingent on the state giving their approval.
The board voted to postpone a motion on the application until their next meeting on Tuesday, September 26, at 9 a.m.
Golden Dakota Farms application
Golden Dakota stopped into the courthouse at the beginning of August and requested a second one-year extension on their existing class “A” CAFO, located on 221st Street north west of Ward.
The original approval of their expansion of 1,200 head of dairy cows was approved September 22, 2015.
Last year they came in and asked for a one-year extension, with the reasoning that they did not have $6 million to start building.
Eng said she received a letter stating this year the reasoning remained money and that the dairy has no place to take the milk.
The letter also indicated that there would not be any work done within the next year.
Because of this, and not knowing if another extension would be requested again next year, the board voted to deny the application for a second one-year extension on the CAFO.
Mossing’s Dairy application
Mossing’s filed on August 18, 2017, an application for a variance in the ag district setback requirements for a CAFO, 50 feet into the 300 foot setback.
The dairy is located on 233A Street in Egan and has been located in the county for just about 10 years.
Both the township and the highway department approved, but there must be a road haul agreement in place.
Eng said when this CAFO was first approved in 2006, there was three phases for the facility. The third phase includes a freestyle barn to the north.
“Before he builds those, he’s asking for an expansion and wants to make the buildings bigger, requiring the variance,” Eng said.
The expansion would house up to 1,200 cows, roughly doubling the size of the dairy currently.
Pat Heinemann spoke to the board as a neighbor located directly northeast of the dairy and lives approximately less than two miles away.
“I’m not against farming, I grew up in it,” Pat Heinemann said. “I don’t consider this necessarily farming, this is an industry.”
He said when hay and silage is chopped at the dairy, the amount of dust causes visibility on the roads to drop.
Pat Heinemann also said he doesn’t think they are following their manure management plan exactly as it’s written, with manure being knifed in since the beginning right up to the fenceline.
He requested that a road haul agreement be put in place for both the township and the county to control traffic going over the roads as well as a dust suppressant on site from April to November to help with visibility.
He said he and his family brought forward similar concerns and requests when the original dairy was approved 10 years ago, but the board at the time wouldn’t listen.
“I want to emphasize I’m not against farming,” Pat Heinemann said. “I really hope this commission will listen not only to myself and my family, but others and do what we hoped to do 10 years ago.”
Next, his wife Tracey Bowen Heinemann spoke, coming from a more emotional standpoint, representing five generations of family who have lived on their current land for almost 120 years.
She said the road haul agreement should have been put in place in 2006 and that when she drives on the roads near the dairy, her safety is a concern, especially with traffic in and out of the dairy’s two driveways.
The expansion, she said, would lead to more hauling and more dangerous road conditions.
“Is it beneficial to the county to add more to it?” Tracey Heinemann said. “Everybody’s getting out of milk, there’s no money in it.”
She said she and her husband weren’t opposed to the building of the confinement in 2006, they would just like to see some restrictions put on it.
Sue Hoffman addressed the commissioners next. She said her parents purchased their farm, located three quarters of a mile from the dairy, in 1951 and she still lives there today.
“I understand that times change,” Hoffman said. “I do not agree that progress includes the right to do harm to neighbors.”
She and her husband have owned the farm since 1997 and opposed the original conditional use permit one decade ago.
The methane gas from the manure causes breathing problems for her husband, as he is an asthmatic.
She asked the board to uphold the terms of their ordinances, that it is their obligation as commissioners to provide for the health and welfare of the citizens, and to vote against the variance and conditional use permit.
A decision on the Mossing’s Dairy application for an expansion to their current class “A” CAFO will also be postponed until September 26 at 9 a.m.