Long-running Aurora Co. farm lawsuit now in settlement talksPLANKINTON — Settlement talks are apparently ongoing between Aurora County and Thompson Farms, which could end a legal battle waged for more than a decade over a county zoning ordinance restricting dairy cow numbers.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
PLANKINTON — Settlement talks are apparently ongoing between Aurora County and Thompson Farms, which could end a legal battle waged for more than a decade over a county zoning ordinance restricting dairy cow numbers.
Keith Thompson, a former owner of Thompson Farms, acknowledged settlement negotiations had taken place but declined to provide details when contacted recently by The Daily Republic.
Numerous calls made to Thompson Farms attorney Mark Meierhenry, of Sioux Falls, were not returned.
At the heart of the issue between Aurora County and Thompson Farms is a 1998 county zoning ordinance that limited the number of dairy cows Thompson Farms could own.
In 2009, a judge ruled the ordinance essentially forced the Thompson family to sell its dairy after investing a significant amount of money into expansion plans.
After a seven-day trial in July, a jury found the ordinance had hurt the value of the dairy and awarded Thompson Farms $600,000 in damages. Thompson Farms originally sought $2.6 million.
If no settlement can be reached and no appeal is made, Aurora County will have to pay all the damages because of another jury’s decision, made after another trial in January. That jury decided county officials failed to provide timely notice of the lawsuit to the county’s insurer, releasing the insurer from any liability.
Aurora County has the option of appealing the $600,000 verdict. A settlement would presumably ward off what could be a lengthy appeal process.