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Citizens upset at County Board

By Staff | Oct 21, 2018

“Due to the amount of residences near this land, we’ve found this to be very controversial,” said county commissioner Tom Loveall. “In the end, every person on the Planning commission was conflicted. The final vote was conflicted, 3-2.”

That 3-2 vote was made on Oct. 9, with regards to approving a conditional use permit, or CUP, in Section 25 of Jo Davies Township, where Larry Twedt has requested a 1,000 animal-unit feedlot. The approval received a large amount of recoil from citizens around the 10 acre plot where the proposed swine confinement would be placed.

The controversy Loveall spoke of bled into the Faribault County Board of Commissioners meeting on Oct. 16, where more than 20 residents came with concerns that they aired to the commissioners.

Loria Rebuffoni of Planning and Zoning spoke to the commissioners with regards to the CUP. She stated the purpose of the proposed project is to build a total confinement swine facility to hold 3,280 hogs that range from 55 to 300 pounds, as well as a dead animal management area.

According to Rebuffoni’s staff report summary, Faribault County ordinance states the total animal units are 1,312, which requires the CUP. The applicant, Twedt, has a Conditional Land Purchase Agreement contingent on the approval of the CUP. That agreement is to purchase 10 acres in the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 25 in Jo Davies Township, with its nearest residence being 1,520 feet away.

Rebuffoni added the CUP would also be contingent on approval of a State MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) Feedlot permit, which could take up to 60 days to process.

On Oct. 9, nobody spoke in favor of the project, with approximately 15 people speaking against the project. Many of those people spoke of concerns with regards to odor, quality of air, health concerns, traffic and speed safety for their children and pets, property value, overall quality of life, and manure management.

Those same people came to the commissioners with the same concerns, who also stated that they were residents of the area in question, whereas the owners and renters of the pro-posed confinement facility were not.

The staff report summary stated that after the Oct. 9 meeting, staff was notified that a petition was being gathered to submit to the Environmental Quality Board, or EQB. Since that meeting, 267 names were on the petition to submit to the EQB.

Dennis Koziolek, chair of the Planning commission, said the findings stated the project would create odor, but it met all the guidelines of the CUP.

“We can’t deny it. This is a big learning curve,” said Koziolek. “It’s on Ag-2 land, and they agreed they would follow the conditions.”

Alberta Greimann, 89, was the first to speak to the board. She stated she lived on a century farm, and that a major waterway that went through her property would be affected by the hog confinement project, not only with the potential of water pollutants, but the value of her land would go down as well.

“We are already getting a lot of Martin County’s water,” said Scott Ankeny, another citizen in the affected area. “Do we really want to get their hogs, too? We don’t need any more hogs in Faribault County. This place stinks enough as it is.”

United Hospital District CEO Rick Ash was also present with the petitioners.

“I am here both as a homeowner and a medical professional,” he stated. “This is a healthcare issue, in my perspective. This particular process has health risks involved, and this is a difficult decision you have you’re talking about people’s livelihood versus their lives. We love pork, and that is no question, but there are some great health concerns with regards to this as well.”

Joel Welder, another citizen stated his concerns with the closeness to the city of Blue Earth.

“It’s going to smell. It will affect properties in the area. Who is really going to achieve value from this? This will affect many more people than the few who do the business,” said Welder. “It may be time to consider a new site, perhaps another site more remote from the city.”

“This is corporate. This is wrong,” said Rahn Greimann. “The folks who own this land are setting people up. This needs to be on their own land if they want to make this happen.”

David Greer, Karen Ristau, and Dr. Aaron Johnson along with his wife, Jenna, were also among those who expressed their concerns at the behest of the commissioners.

“When I came here, you had two doctors that were so burnt out that they chose to leave. Now you have four new doctors who chose to live out there,” said Dr. Aaron Johnson. “We moved out to Blue Earth to enjoy our property. A half mile outside of town doesn’t cut it. Findings from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) state manure can cause gaseous and skin irritants. I sympathize with the Twedt’s situation, but you will lose another doctor in this town if you approve this. It’s not about hogs, it’s about us.”

“This isn’t just a setback for the laws,” said Bruce Stensland, another citizen. “This is proposed to be built in one of the most congregated townships. Fifteen building sites within reach of that barn. There are kids out there. This should be looked at a lot stronger than just concerns of financial setbacks. Have them do it on their property. If this was your property, how would you feel?”

After an abundance of input, Larry Twedt was given an opportunity to speak on his view of the circumstances of his requested CUP.

“If I knew this would make such a big stink, I would have thought twice,” was Twedt’s opening statement. He then discussed the difficulty of acquiring land to rent in Faribault County.

“I’ve got two sons moving home to farm here,” said Twedt.?”We’re investing a million dollars in Faribault County and if I know anything about economics, that means more money will follow into the county. We are creating job opportunities. I have had three hog barns within a mile of my house and my family and I could still have get-togethers outside. Maybe I’m used to the smell of manure, but this property is zoned for agriculture and we want to use it that way.”

Commissioner Loveall also had some words to share with the citizens in the board room.

“Like it or not, these are the laws we have to follow,” he stated. “The MPCA is the agency that tells us when something is unhealthy the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the MPCA, that’s who I’ve got to look to for laws.”

“This is the purpose of this ordinance, this is what this CUP is for,” said Commissioner Greg Young. “There are all kinds of arguments here. That’s why, in a civil fashion, we have to weigh this out.”

It was commissioner Tom Warmka who finally made the motion to table the CUP in order for the petition to be sent to the EQB and give the commissioners time to weigh their options more thoroughly.

The CUP will be revisited at 9:30 a.m. during the commissioner’s regular board meeting on Nov. 6.