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Minnehaha commissioners approve plant near Colton

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- Commissioners in Minnehaha County have approved a $10 million fertilizer and seed plant near Colton despite the concerns of some area residents about its safety.

The commission voted 4-0 on Tuesday to allow the Eastern Farmers Cooperative to build the plant, which is scheduled to open in 2014, the media reported.

Opponents of the plant, including Doug and Louise Hanson, who live across the road from the proposed site, said possible anhydrous ammonia spills would threaten their safety.

Louise Hanson said the couple home schools their six children, and there are other children are at a nearby day care north of her property about 600 feet from the plant site.

The commission upheld a decision by the planning and zoning department, which granted a conditional-use permit Jan. 28. Opponents were appealing that decision.

Commissioners Jeff Barth and John Pekas acknowledged the residents' concerns, but Barth said the plant would be served by two paved roads and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.

"The location is as good as it gets," he said. "If not here, where?"

Pekas said he worries about the site's proximity to children.

"It gives me pause," he said. But in the end, he joined with Barth, saying, "I understand if not here, where?"

Eastern Farmers Cooperative wants to close the seed and fertilizer aspects of its older facilities at Baltic and Crooks and consolidate them in a structure more than two miles north of Colton.

Tony VanOverschelde, Eastern Farmers' agronomy manager, told commissioners the plant is in line with the co-op's strategic plan to build modern fertilizer facilities in rural locations and to close aging facilities in nearby towns.

Commissioner Dick Kelly said safety redundancies at a similar Eastern Farmers plant he toured in Worthing eased his fears about potential anhydrous spills.

Commission Chairman Gerald Beninga said the willingness of the co-op to work with nearby residents "makes it more easy for me to support."

Colton is about 25 miles northwest of Sioux Falls.