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Commission recommends denying CUP

By Staff | Dec 16, 2018

Members of the Faribault County Planning Commission listen to commission member Tom Loveall during the debate over a proposed hog facility near Blue Earth during their meeting last Tuesday. Left to right are Allen Aukes, Lola Baxter, Russell Elmer, Dennis Koziolek, Morris Hanson, Loveall and Jim Meyer.

After a three-hour meeting last Tuesday night, the Faribault County Planning Commission voted to recommend to the Faribault County Board of Commissioners that a request for a conditional use permit (CUP) for a hog operation near Blue Earth be denied.

Planning Commission chairman Dennis Koziolek was quick to point out to members of the public that the County Board could overrule the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

The Planning Commission will also still have to adopt the official findings of last Tuesday’s meeting at their next meeting on Jan. 8.

The County Board will then look at the recommendation to deny the CUP at their meeting of Jan. 22.

The applicant for the CUP is Larry Twedt, who has plans to build a 3,280 head hog feedlot operation in Section 25 of Jo Daviess Township. It would be located approximately three miles southwest of the city of Blue Earth.

Larry Twedt addresses the Planning Commission about his plan for a hog facility in Jo Daviess Township.

Just over 30 citizens, most of them residents near the proposed hog operation site, were in attendance at the meeting.

The vote at the Planning Commission meeting came after reports from staff and testimony from the applicant and those in favor or opposed to the hog operation. The commission also spent a lot of time going over 28 points that needed a consensus agreement by the commission board members. Loria Rebuffoni, the Faribault County Planning and Zoning Administrator, gave a detailed report on how the proposed hog operation fits with the county zoning ordinance regulations.

That included the proposed site being at least 1,500 feet from the nearest neighbor, 9,000 feet from the city of Blue Earth and 5,280 feet from any housing development, as well as many other requirements.

Rebuffoni also pointed out while the application met many of the zoning ordinance requirements, that any operation over 1,000 animal units (1,312 hogs) requires a CUP.

“So if the application was for under 1,000 animal units, we would not be here discussing this?” questioned commission member Allen Aukes. Rebuffoni responded that was correct.

Rebuffoni also listed off a set of 16 conditions that the staff recommended be added to the CUP, if it was granted.

Among those was adding windbreaks and a bio-filter to help with odor mitigation.

The commission members discussed several of those items with Twedt concerning the reason for this particular site, use of the bio-filter and other issues dealing mainly with odor control.

When it came time for members of the public to speak in opposition to the project if they wished to, 13 persons took advantage of their 3-minute time allotment to comment.

Among those was Bruce Stensland, who said he lived just 1,600 feet away from the proposed hog operation, and that there are 16 building sites within a mile of it.

“I don’t know if this (hog facility) will cause a health issue or not,” Stensland said. “But I don’t want to be one of the guinea pigs to find out.”

Jason Larson, one of the Jo Daviess Township supervisors, read a letter from the township board listing concerns about the proposed site.

Rahn Greimann gave the board a verbal synopsis of the 200 page document he had previously given them, which outlined various studies showing health, property value damage and other aspects of close proximity to hog operations around the country.

“We are not against hog operations,” Greimann said. “We are fighting for a change in location. We are asking to move it.”

Clinton Benz pointed out there are 22 children under the age of 18 who live close by to the site. He said families say they would move from the area if the project moves ahead.

David Rear said he is the father of seven of those children who live near the site.

“I urge you to vote this down,” Rear said. “This is the wrong site. It is not the most appropriate use, not a place for a hog barn.”

Amy Lorenzen said she lives a mile away from the project.

“Jo Daviess (township) has been hit hard recently by promises,” she said. “We were told things about the ITC power line and the wind towers that weren’t true. Now it is the hog barn. It will stink.”

Dr. Aaron Johnson said he would like to see another place for the hog facility as well.

“There are 15 or 16 building sites right here,” he said. “This is not a good place for this. We don’t all want to live in the city, we want to live in the country and enjoy being outside and watching the sunset at night.”

He added he thought there should be lots of areas in the county with no houses nearby where a hog barn would not be a problem.

When the commissioners went over their 28 points, they agreed that most of them would not be adversely affected by the proposed hog facility. Those included things like traffic, diminished property values and water issues.

But, four of the 28 items caused discussion by the commissioners and ultimately, the vote to deny. Those five were how the project would affect health, general welfare, be injurious to the enjoyment of area property, air quality and create offensive odors.

Since these five did not all get the OK from the board members (some did not by a close 4-3 vote), chairman Koziolek had no choice but to ask for a motion to recommend to the County Board that the request for a CUP be denied.

That vote passed 6-1 with commission member (and county commissioner) Tom Loveall casting the lone dissenting vote.

Loveall had made an effort to explain why he felt the commission should look at the project itself and that it was in an area zoned agricultural. He also pointed to the fact that studies from the University of Minnesota had shown the use of a bio-filter would keep the odor down to a minimum.

“So is our standard having a zero percent impact on these issues?” he asked. “Yes, this project will have some affect on things like odor, but the question is how much. I say a lot of it is contingent on the bio-filter and how well it works.”