Planning Commission amends term limit, feedlot language
Dodge County Planning Commission members on Feb. 7 approved the amending of administrative language regarding commissioner term limits and animal feedlot registration and permits, among other items.
Commission members have 3-year terms. Appointments are made so no more than three and no fewer than one commissioner’s term is filled at the beginning of each calendar year.
Language eliminated stated that appointments shall be staggered so that no more than three 3-year terms are filled at the beginning of each calendar year; and that members may be eligible for one reappointment or a maximum of two terms or six years per member, at the discretion of the County Board of Commissioners.
Other amended items:
- Deleted language stated that written notice of a temporary use permit should be sent to the property owners.
Language now reads that written notice of a public hearing regarding the application for a conditional use permit or interim use permit shall be sent to adjacent property owners for feedlots with 500 or more animal units, and aggregate mining and quarry operations.
- Language eliminated the requirement for permits for animal feedlots. Instead, authorizations are required for livestock facilities within the county, to maintain current registration.
- Eliminated language regarding feedlot registration also included the requirement that no one shall operate a new feedlot or modify or expand an existing feedlot without first securing either a feedlot construction site permit or conditional use permit for a feedlot. A manure storage facility will no longer be considered a part of any animal feedlot.
“I like the changes to the ordinances,” Dodge County Board chair Rodney Peterson said following the public hearing. “I know the issue here today was about term limits. It’s really irrelevant for the commission. The elected board are the ones who have to make the decisions. You want a commission that’s knowledgeable and understanding of the perameters that they’ve been commissioned for, so they can bring back to the board that has to make the final decision an informed, well-decisioned plan, to help that board make a good decision for all the citizens in the county.”
The commission agreed in December to remove language regarding variances from provisions which will not adversely affect the health or safety of people or residing near the applicant, be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to property or improvements in the adjacent area, or affect the area’s environmental quality.
The Commission also amended language to state that members serving three-year appointed terms are eligible for reappointment at the County Board of Commissioners’ discretion, and that the Planning Commission may hold special meetings when official action is required outside of a regular meeting.
Brad Trom, whose family farms about five miles east of Blooming Prairie, said “factory farms” are causing serious public health problems, and Planning Commission members need term limit to allow a broad group of citizens to serve.
In December, the Ripley Township Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional use permit and variances to construct a modern tunnel-ventilated barn consisting of two rooms to house 2,400 hogs, near the Trom farm in southern Dodge County.
One permit condition is that the barn must have modern biofilters – bacteria which “eat” odors to eliminate them, Township chair Donny Smith said.
But “the fox is in charge of the chicken house in Dodge County, and it is clear the fox intends to remain in charge,” said Brad Trom, a member of the nonprofit Dodge County Concerned Citizens group.
“Dodge County, after all these years, is still operating like a ‘good old boys’ network,” he said. “Nothing changes. There’s proof. What they did today is what we expected them to do. They would have kept the term limits, and abided by them. They don’t want to abide by their own rules. What does that tell you?
“The words and actions of the Planning Commission are two very different things when they discuss term limits,” Trom said. “If they were unbiased and looking at this from the standpoint of the average person in Dodge County, they would easily adopt the Dodge County Concerned Citizens’ recommended changes to the ordinance. The majority of people serving on the Planning Commission, including many of the county commissioners and township supervisors, have a clear agenda - to put as many factory farms in Dodge County as soon as possible before the citizens wake up to the ongoing damage that already exists within many of the townships of Dodge County.”
Ken Folie of Kasson, a former Planning Commission member and current Canisteo Township supervisor, said some of Trom’s assertions are incorrect.
He said most animal feedlot requests are denied upon being screened by the Planning Commission, which meets with prospective feedlot operators - who must meet county and state land-use rules.
“And rather than take their money for a public hearing and advertise on these people’s time for something that’s going to get turned down, we screen them,” Folie said. “Once they come to the Planning Commission, it looks like everyone gets approved. Well, they’ve been very well screened. And unless something comes up in the audience, they not only meet the county land use requirements, but the state feedlot rules, too.”
“We’ve heard so much of these ‘factory farms’ and things that it’s gotten to be an old song,” Planning Commission member Harlan Buck said. “Some people’s opposition to it, they just don’t understand the need, and the view that a farmer goes through. If he’s in the hog business, he’s in the hog business. Just like somebody who raised all crops, and they’re going to plant grain. I don’t see where these factory farms are hurting anybody. I’m not opposed to them. Because if we didn’t have them, where are we going to get the pork? There are no small farmers left. I was a 300-to-400 hog-raiser. But there aren’t any of us left. That’s just like the dairy business. Where do you get your milk? From big dairies. Everything changes. Factories change – everything.”