A little public disclosure never hurt anyone.
For the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors, an idea to publish the names of entities that choose not to abide by the terms of the county's long-standing Good Neighbor Policy appears to be on track following a discussion at the Aug. 26 meeting of the board. The Supervisors discussed the idea with Palo Alto County Attorney Lyssa Henderson as an offshoot of the county's appeal before the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission back on Aug. 19 in Des Moines.
During the appeal of a Master Matrix permit for a confinement site northwest of Emmetsburg, Henderson, on behalf of the county, had pointed out that the county had enjoyed great compliance with the provisions of the Good Neighbor Policy, which calls for a livestock confinement to be located at least one-half mile from any inhabited dwelling, unless the residents of the dwelling agreed to sign a waiver to the distance provision. In the appeal on Aug. 19, the site was located within the one-quarter mile distance allowed by state regulations, but neighboring residents had not signed off on waivers to the distance, which had prompted the appeal due to the lack of compliance with the local policy.
"The EPC allowed the permit, and voted against us, but they did question why the developer didn't try to find a better location for the confinement," Henderson noted. "They were sympathetic to us, but the regulations are what they are."
Prior to that appeal, Supervisor Linus Solberg had suggest the possibility of publishing the names of parties who construct confinements in the county that choose not to comply with the Good Neighbor Policy, allowing the public to know of the choice made by the developers or landowners involved in the project. The idea met with support from other board members, and was placed on the Aug. 26 Board agenda.
"I know the agenda says we have a Resolution to Publish Entities in Non-Compliance with the Good Neighbor Policy," Henderson said, " but after a lot of thought, I think it's a bad idea to do that by resolution, because the question becomes, 'who do we list? How far back do we go?"
"So would we have more flexibility to publish without having a resolution, is that what you're thinking?" asked Board Chair Ed Noonan.
"Yes," Henderson answered. "You don't want a list like this to be buried in some legal publication, and a resolution is not binding. It doesn't bind a board say 10 years down the road to continue to publish."
Noonan, along with board members Ron Graettinger and Craig Merrill, all agreed. Supervisors Solberg and Keith Wirtz were not present at the meeting.
"Since the state is the only entity that can regulate livestock confinements, as we learned at the appeal hearing, I would say if you want to publish the names of those who don't abide by the Good Neighbor Policy, you publish them by motion on a case-to-case basis."
As the discussion continued, a suggestion was made to include language in the Good Neighbor Policy that spelled out the possibility of publication of names of non-compliant individuals and entities.
"I think that should be written in the policy instead of just telling Joe (Neary, County Zoning Administrator), suggested Merrill.
"The policy has been a great tool to bring the producers and the residents around these sites together," noted Neary, who sat in on the discussion.
After a few more minutes of discussion, Merrill moved to direct the Zoning Administrator to inform individuals that those in non-compliance with the conditions of the Good Neighbor Policy will result in publication of names in the county newspapers. Graettinger offered a second to the motion, which was approved unanimously with Solberg and Wirtz absent and not voting.