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Planning Commission approves controversial hog facility in Carimona

Fri, Aug 17th, 2007
Posted in Government

Ann O’Connor shows a map detailing the density of hog facilities in Carimona Township at the Fillmore County Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday night.

PRESTON - For several years, Dave Mensink and Ann O'Connor have worked together side by side as Carimona Township Supervisors. On Thursday night, however, they were on opposite sides of a debate on whether Mensink's application for a Conditional Use Permit for two 1200 hog facilities should be approved by the Fillmore County Planning & Zoning Commission.

Mensink testified before a standing room only crowd that the proposed site in Section 31, approximately one mile north of Greenleafton, met all of the county zoning requirements and should be approved.

O'Connor argued that the number of hog feedlots in Carimona Township had reached a point of saturation and that Mensink's application should be rejected.

Mensink provided the Commission with Karst and soil boring results that showed there were no Karst features within a 1000 feet of the site and that the location was also well within bedrock limits.

Mensink told the group that the facility would meet all the setback requirements, with the closest neighbor being 1700 feet away. Using the Offset Model, the facility would comply with 94% annoyance odor measures at 1067 feet. He also said that the site was more than 4000 feet away from the town of Greenleafton. Mensink said that he had 475 acres available for manure application.

Mensink's application was for approximately 700 animal units. The Fillmore County Zoning Ordinance requires a conditional use permit for anything more than 500 animal units. Mensink told the Commission that he could have put up one building and not needed a permit, and add a second building in two years, thus avoiding a public hearing.

"I wanted my project to be totally transparent to my neighbors and the public," Mensink said. "It would make it a more credible project."

A number of people spoke in support of Mensink's application. Many were neighbors who testified to Mensink's farming practices and efforts to be a good neighbor.

Harry Root, who farms adjacent to Mensink's land, described Mensink as a good farmer who respects the environment.

"We need to support good farmers," Root said.

O'Connor showed Commissioners a map prepared by Feedlot Officer Mike Frauenkron which showed where hog feedlot operations were located in Carimona Township.

"Mike Frauenkron told me that we [Carimona] are at the point of saturation, because there are so many hog feedlots," O'Connor said.

She went on to list a number of questions she had about the project:

• Whether the manure application rate in Fillmore County compares to other counties? Is it higher or lower?

• What is the complaint policy?

• What is the odor control policy?

• Is there a conflict of interest on the Commission, given that many of the members have hog feedlots?

Carimona Township Supervisor Arlin Hovey supported O'Connor's belief that the township is saturated with hog facilities.

"Dave does a good job, but if I had a chance to vote on this, I would vote against it," Hovey said. "I don't see enough pluses for the township."

Hovey raised the issue of wear and tear on roads and bridges.

"Maybe we should have a gallonage tax, that would go directly to roads and bridges," Hovey said.

Hovey told the Commission that he can stand on his 120 acres and see hog facilities in every direction, listing off nine different operations.

"I have only one neighbor that does not raise hogs," Hovey said. "We have this big push going on in the county making sure everyone is compliant with their septic system, while we put manure on fields that has odor, contains bacteria as well as drug residue," Hovey concluded.

Others spoke for and against the project. Cheryl Serfling told the Commission that "no one who speaks for it [project], lives next to it." Wendell Mensink, Dave's father, said he "lives within a mile of between 13,000 and 15,000 hogs and odor is not an issue."

Jerry Hilldebrandt of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency attended the meeting to answer questions as Fillmore County Feedlot Officer Mike Frauenkron was unable to attend.

He told the group that the MPCA will follow up on complaints when forwarded to them by the county. He told of doing testing for hydrogen sulfide near the Mensink farm and found results were well within regulatory limits.

Hilldebrandt also told O'Connor that the manure application rate was the same in all counties.

Commission member Duane Bakke answered many of Ann O'Connor's questions. He told her that the odor control policy had to do with setbacks.

"Setbacks and bio-filters are all odor control methods," Bakke said. He also said that because he or other members of the Commission raise hogs, there is no legal conflict of interest as they are not in a position to benefit from Mensink's operation.

In the end the commission voted 6-0 to forward Mensink's application to the County Board.

"We will do whatever we can to keep odor down," Mensink said after the vote.

Zoning Ordinance


The Commission continued to review the Fillmore County Zoning Ordinance and make recommendations on changes that would bring the ordinance into compliance with the recently completed Comprehensive Plan. On Thursday, the Commission held a public hearing on a number of proposed changes to the ordinance. This includes allowing subdivisions and planned unit developments only in incorporated cities, and would be considered prohibited uses in the Ag district.

Preble Supervisor David Williams spoke in support of this measure.

The Commission also readied a new measure that would deal with extracting water for bottling water. The amendment would limit the amount of water to be extracted per day at 2,500 gallons.

The measures will be passed on to the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners for final approval.

Rock Quarry

The Commission approved a conditional use permit for Knife River Midwest, LLC, of Decorah, to operate the Engrav Rock Quarry in Section 24 of Newburg Township.

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