Hanson dairy permits hang in balanceALEXANDRIA — A Hanson County official testified Tuesday that she knew building permits issued to a proposed 7,000-head dairy were kept valid beyond deadlines allowed in the county’s ordinances.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
ALEXANDRIA — A Hanson County official testified Tuesday that she knew building permits issued to a proposed 7,000-head dairy were kept valid beyond deadlines allowed in the county’s ordinances.
“I understood from the beginning that a project of this size … could not adhere to our time-frame in our zoning ordinance,” said Hanson County Zoning Administrator Mary Wilcox.
Wilcox was the only person who testified during the hearing involving an ongoing dispute between the proposed dairy’s developer, Michael Crinion, and the Concerned Citizens of Hanson County, a group organized in opposition to the dairy. The hearing was held in a packed courtroom at the Hanson County Courthouse, with about 75 people in attendance.
The hearing comes on the heels of an order issued in February by Judge Tim Bjorkman that forced the Hanson County Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment to either cancel conditional use permits issued to the proposed dairy or appear in court to explain why the permits have been extended.
According to a Hanson County zoning ordinance, a conditional use permit should be canceled by the zoning administrator if the work has not started after 180 days or has not been substantially completed after two years.
The minutes of two Hanson County Planning Commission meetings, dated Aug. 24, 2007, and Feb. 10, 2010, were presented as evidence by Concerned Citizens attorney R. Shawn Tornow, of Sioux Falls. The minutes showed the commission had discussed a timeline for the dairy beyond the deadlines set in the ordinance, but never made a resolution extending the proposed dairy’s permits.
The Concerned Citizens complained about the extension of the dairy’s permits to Hanson County commissioners on Dec. 21.
Attorney Zachary Peterson, of Aberdeen, appeared on behalf of the county. He argued the planning commission had the authority to look at the massive scope of the proposed dairy and extend the permits beyond the deadlines in the county’s ordinance.
“What we’re talking about is a project that is designed to take more than two years,” Peterson said.
If Bjorkman decides to make his February order permanent, the dairy would be forced to reapply with Hanson County for its conditional use permits.
Tornow argued the county is trying to avoid the public outcry surrounding the proposed dairy.
“They don’t want to have to deal with this question and have these good folks show up and submit their complaints,” he said. “They don’t want to have to go back and revisit the issue.”
Bjorkman listened to arguments from both sides and will issue a decision at a later date.
Concerned Citizens leader Rob Bender, of Fulton, and state Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, sat next to Tornow, who is also a Republican state representative, during the hearing. Nelson and Bender, along with nearly everyone in the courtroom, were dressed in blue T-shirts labeling them as a Concerned Citizen. The group has been running advertisements in The Daily Republic offering the T-shirts for sale for $10.
“It was a way to get the community together and show our support,” Nelson said. He designed the shirts himself and said more than 300 have been sold.
Crinion, the dairy’s developer, was not present at the hearing.
The Concerned Citizens are also challenging the water permits issued to the proposed dairy.
The group successfully appealed the state Water Management Board’s decision to grant the permits to the dairy, and a hearing to reconsider whether to grant the dairy a water permit has been scheduled for September.