Judge throws out proposed dairy's permitsALEXANDRIA — A judge has ruled that Hanson County officials must cancel permits issued to a proposed 7,000-head dairy.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
ALEXANDRIA — A judge has ruled that Hanson County officials must cancel permits issued to a proposed 7,000-head dairy.
Judge Tim Bjorkman ruled this week that Hanson County Zoning Administrator Mary Wilcox should have canceled a conditional use permit and variances issued to the dairy in 2007 after two years had passed without substantial completion of the project. The dairy is planned for a stretch of land about 6.5 miles north of Alexandria.
“It’s vindication for the people of Hanson County,” said state Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, reacting to the ruling in an interview Thursday with The Daily Republic.
Bjorkman also ruled both Wilcox and the Hanson County Board of Adjustment had no authority to extend the permits beyond the two-year limit in the county’s zoning ordinance.
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 decision comes after a hearing July 31 at which Wilcox testified she knew the permits were being extended beyond the two-year time limit set by a county ordinance.
Nelson and fellow Fulton resident Rob Bender have been leading the group opposed to the dairy, known as the Concerned Citizens of Hanson County.
According to Bjorkman’s ruling, the Hanson County Board of Adjustment never resolved to extend the permits beyond the two-year limit. Even if the board made such a resolution, the ruling states the county’s zoning ordinance gives no authority to extend the two-year time period
The dairy’s opponents complained to county officials in December about the dairy’s permits being extended. When those complaints weren’t acted upon, the group brought the officials to court.
Despite the conflict, Nelson said the group isn’t blaming county officials.
“These folks got bad advice from their state government,” he said. Nelson argues the state has been actively trying to further the development of the proposed dairy despite protests from residents. Nelson opposed South Dakota Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones last year when Bones testified in favor of the dairy before the state Water Management Board.
“People don’t pay tax dollars to have their state government work against their best interests,” Nelson said.
Should the dairy’s developers choose to reapply for the permits, the group’s attorney, R. Shawn Tor-now, of Sioux Falls, said the Concerned Citizens are willing to appear before the board and express their concerns.
With this latest ruling, Nelson is hopeful that more scrutiny will be given to any future permit applications from the proposed dairy.
“I think the county has plenty of grounds not to approve anything these folks come down with in the future,” Nelson said.
This ruling comes after another, earlier court victory by the dairy’s opponents. In that earlier decision, a judge remanded the dairy’s state-issued water permit back to the state Water Management Board for reconsideration.
The water permit issue is scheduled to go before the state board in September, but Tornow said the Concerned Citizens are now questioning whether the issue should instead be heard before the state Office of Hearing Examiners. A telephonic hearing is set for later this month to allow the parties to debate the venue change.