Hog lot comes before county for 3rd time

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A permit request for a hog lot once denied will come in front of the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners again.

Adams Minnesota Farms originally requested a conditional-use permit June 17 but was denied. The original vote was 3 to 2, with commissioners Dan Belshan, Chris Shoff and Jim Nelson voting against the permit.

However, on Tuesday the issue was brought up for a third time.

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On another vote of 3 to 2, the commissioners opted to reconsider the denial. The vote had commissioners Mark Behrends, Glen Mathiason and Nelson — who initiated the reconsideration — voting for and Shoff and Belshan voting against. The vote on the permit will come the second meeting in September.

Adams Minnesota Farms is requesting a permit to build a total confinement hog barn, 51 feet by 392 feet, to house 2,400 pigs between 55 and 300 pounds in London Township. The structure would be off 860th Avenue and 130th Street southeast of Myrtle.

The motion was originally denied because of the effect on 130th Street and in fear of flooding. The Planning Commission, however, recommended approval of the permit in June.

Adams Minnesota Farms lawyer Paul Sween spoke during the open forum. However, he and Adams Farms representatives denied further comment.

Sween said Adams Farms talked with London Township officials and agreed to have access to the proposed site off 860th Avenue instead of 130th Street, which was part of the reason the permit was initially denied. The agreement includes maintenance and dust control.

In June, commissioners expressed concern about the effect on 130th Street if use was increased by Adams Farms. Belshan said the road is too narrow and retains water even after a little rain. When the permit first came before the board he suggested a different location.

Belshan said Tuesday the location and access to the site are his main concerns. He suggested a better option would be on a tar road adjacent to Adams Farms’ 400 acres.

Sween said Adams Farms was told the sole reason for denial was road usage. Adams Farms representatives appeared in front of the board a second time in July agreeing to maintain 130th Street and make any necessary improvements including laying rock on the road, but the permit was not reconsidered until Tuesday.

The issue then came up again during the commissioners’ items at the end of the meeting.

“They’re bending over backwards, going above and beyond working with the county to get this thing through,” said Behrends, who originally voted for the permit. “We either need to move it forward or explain to them why it’s not moving forward.”

Nelson said since he had further information and his questions were answered about the road, he felt comfortable voting on the issue again. Originally, he was also concerned about the state of the road leading to the proposed site.

He motioned to reconsider the denial. Once it was voted to reconsider, the decision on a permit was then tabled until the Sept. 16 meeting. There will be a workshop between now and the meeting to discuss the topic further. The exact date is not yet known.

“My questions have been answered by the township,” Nelson said, adding he appreciated the fact that the company is working with the township.

Belshan said he didn’t like the fact that the item wasn’t on the agenda and refused to vote on it. He said he would also like the input of County Engineer Sue Miller — who wasn’t in attendance Tuesday — about road usage.

“I don’t believe any action taken today would be appropriate,” Belshan said.

The proposed site happens to be roughly 4 miles south of Belshan’s listed residence. It is also just down 860th Avenue from land listed under Calvin Belshan. Dan Belshan said Tuesday he has “had no contact with Calvin, a life-long hog farmer, on this issue.”

In June, neighbors spoke up with concerns about the hog lot moving in. One issue that came up was flood elevation, but Planning and Zoning Administrator Wayne Sorensen said the top of the barn is seven feet above the 100-year flood zone. For the manure pit to be submerged under water, he said, there would have to be a flood of “biblical proportion.”

According to Belshan, whose district the proposed location resides in, more than 80 percent of London Township residents brought a petition to township officers wishing to wait and investigate the issue further.

In other business, the county board:

– Approved a conditional-use permit for John Pershbacher to build two 51-feet by 328-feet total confinement barns to house 4,000 swine between 55 and 300 pounds in Alden Township.

– Approved the Turtle Creek Watershed boundary line, changing some parcels of land from one watershed to another. From here, the request will go on to the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water to approve boundaries of the Turtle Creek, Shell Rock River and Cedar River watersheds to set hearing for final determination of boundary lines.

– Approved the abandonment of a portion of Freeborn County Ditch 55 by Utabjaa Farms and appointed an engineer to determine the effect on Ditch 55.

– Approved the abandonment of a portion of Ditch 55 by Charles Borneman and appointed an engineer to determine the effect on Ditch 55.

– Approved Jaguar Communications to place a fiber optic line starting at the existing junction box at the County Highway office, 3300 Bridge Ave., and running north along County Road 22, east on 245th Street to County Road 45 and north-northeast to County Road 97. The line would then cross into Steel County.

– Approved improvements and repairs to county ditches 62, 81, 75, 32, 31, 43, 15, 39, Judicial Ditch 22 and JD-20.