County approves hog farm's permitThe Davison County commissioners voted 4-0-1 Tuesday to approve a conditional use permit for Jackrabbit Family Farms to operate a 5,400-sow facility about 10 miles south of Mount Vernon in Baker Township.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
The Davison County commissioners voted 4-0-1 Tuesday to approve a conditional use permit for Jackrabbit Family Farms to operate a 5,400-sow facility about 10 miles south of Mount Vernon in Baker Township.
The 90-minute meeting, held in a packed and stuffy second-floor courtroom at the Davison County Courthouse in Mitchell, was a continuation of an April 17 Board of Adjustment hearing that ended without a vote. At that earlier meeting, the commissioners requested more information on water and other issues related to the application.
Commissioner Jerry Fischer, who was absent from the April 17 hearing, remained true to his Friday announcement that he would not vote on the application. He abstained.
Reading from a prepared statement, Commissioner Denny Kiner said Jackrabbit Family Farms has showed “due diligence in the application process in meeting the requirements of the Davison County Comprehensive Plan, and has shown compliance in meeting county standards for an animal feeding operation.”
Kiner recommended approval with the following conditions, all of which were accepted in the motion to approve. Jackrabbit must:
• Meet all state environmental standards and manure management regulations.
• Execute a signed agreement with Baker Township for road maintenance.
• Work with the county conservation district to establish a minimum five-row tree belt.
• Have a written cleanup or disposal plan for dismantling and cleaning up the site at the end of its useful life.
Commissioner Gerald Weiss, who appeared torn by his decision, said “I tried to put myself in the shoes of both sides. I wouldn’t like this in my backyard either, but we’ve got to keep our young people on the farms, and we need food.”
Claggett and Commissioner Kim Weitala made no public comment prior to their votes.
“There was a lot of passion on both sides,” Claggett said later, adding the commissioners felt the project met county code requirements.
The hearing was marked by legal thrusts and parries.
Noting Fischer’s abstention, Jackrabbit Family Farms manager and Pipestone System CEO Luke Minion asked the commissioners to set aside rules requiring a 4-0 super majority vote for approval of the permit. His request for a simple majority vote was rejected.
Davison County Deputy State’s Attorney Jim Taylor said state law requires a super majority or twothirds vote of the entire Board of Adjustment, not just the members present. That rule was upheld by a 2007 state Supreme Court ruling, Taylor said.
Canton attorney Larry Nelson, representing project opponent Lyle Reimnitz, argued that Jackrabbit Family Farms’ March 23 application for a conditional use permit was illegal because it was submitted before Jackrabbit Family Farms officially existed as a legal entity.
South Dakota Secretary of State records show Jackrabbit Family Farms was incorporated April 12. Nelson also said Pipestone submitted the application and not Jackrabbit’s owners, which he charged is a violation of county regulations.
“Your application has a checklist, and it hasn’t been followed,” Nelson said.
He also charged that the Board of Adjustment did not consider the written recommendations of the Planning and Zoning Commission, as required by the county zoning code.
The Planning and Zoning Commission — which met Tuesday night — hadn’t met or approved its own minutes from the previous meeting, he said, so the commission’s written recommendations were not forwarded to the county commissioners as required.
Minion didn’t dispute the dates cited by Nelson, but he said there was no intent to deceive. “The fact is that [Jackrabbit Family Farms LLC] is constituted today,” he said, adding “I believe we’ve met and exceeded county requirements where necessary.”
County Commission Chairman Claggett disputed Nelson’s claims.
“I think due diligence has been followed despite an anomaly in the process,” Claggett said. “I think we need to move forward and make a decision and then deal with the legal issues.”
Reimnitz declined to comment on whether he and Nelson will mount a legal challenge to Jackrabbit’s conditional use permit.
Professional engineer Kathy Martin, of Norman, Okla., again spoke on behalf of the Baker Township residents against the project.
Martin said questions on water quality, health impacts and manure application setbacks hadn’t been answered adequately. Commissioner Kiner said those issues will be handled by state regulators.
“Perhaps this is something for lawyers,” Martin said.
Minion was pleased with the end result.
“I think the process worked,” he said. “The process was built to hear opponents and proponents and, ultimately, we’re very pleased the commissioners followed their own ordinances.”
In earlier actions Tuesday, the commissioners:
• Approved Mark Puetz’s request for a $4,300 site survey by engineering firm SPN & Associates to locate all plumbing and electrical utilities at the Central Electric building, which the county is purchasing for conversion to office, meeting and storage space.
• Were told by county resident Clark Edwards that several county roads need repairs. Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg later addressed many of his concerns.
Weinberg said, starting May 1, Betts Road (403rd Avenue) will be closed for repairs for one or two months, from 252nd Street to Boyds’ Gunstock Industries.
The inbound section of 247th Street between Highway 37 and Poet Ethanol is once again breaking up from heavy grain truck traffic. Weinberg said the county will fill the ruts and do a chip and seal overlay to preserve the road.
He also noted that 265th Street between 398th and 399th avenues will be repaired this year and a new box culvert will replace an old bridge. The $1.014 million project is on the State Transportation Improvement Project list and costs will be about $38,755 below original engineering estimates, Weinberg said.
• Following a brief auction, leased the county-owned northeast quarter of Section 33 in Badger Township to former lessor Rick Podzimek, for $10,000 for the coming year. Podzimek, who was the only bidder, paid $13,500 for the same land last year. County resident Jim Ewing complained to commissioners that the land should have been leased Feb. 1 so that potential bidders could have had an opportunity to correctly fertilize the land. Claggett apologized and said the late sale was an oversight.
• Gave county Treasurer Brenda Veldheer permission to advertise for a deputy in her office to replace a retiring employee.
• Closed Consolidated Board of Equalization hearings for the 2012 tax year.
• Approved a raffle permit request from Ron’s Bike Shop of Mitchell, which will sell chances on a 21-speed bike to benefit the Sehnert family, who lost their son, Jaxon, in a recent fire.
• Approved Weed Supervisor John Geidel’s request to hire Lennis Laffey as a seasonal water truck driver for $8.50 an hour.
• Declined a request from Deanne Wieczorek and Pat Collins, supporters of Lyndon LaRouche, to approve a resolution supporting the American Water and Power Alliance and other political measures. The water project, which goes back to the early 1960s, would take water from western Canadian rivers to the American West.
Fischer said, “If this is so good for South Dakota, how come we haven’t had any confirmation come down from the state?”