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Supervisors Cite Good Neighbor Policy In Hog Barn Denial

By Staff | Apr 17, 2012

The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors approved a pair of conditional use permits to construct hog finishing barns in the county and rejected another, which didn’t meet the Good Neighbor Policy, during their April 10 meeting.

Palo Alto County Zoning Administrator Joe Neary addressed the board, sharing that he had attended a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission the night before to address the three sites in question.

The first site, submitted by Summit Farms LLC, was for a conditional use permit to construct two 51-feet by 353-feet hog finishing barns in Ellington Township. The two swine finishing barns with deep pit manure storage will have an Animal Unit Capacity of 1760.

“At last night’s Planning and Zoning meeting, I spoke personally to all the neighbors within a mile of the proposed site,” said Neary. “No one objected. After discussion, the Planning and Zoning Committee recommended approving the site.”

Neary added that he had not contacted any residents of Pocahontas County because they were over a mile and a half away from the proposed site. Since the proposed site met the Palo Alto County Good Neighbor Policy, the Supervisors approved it.

The second site, submitted by Charles Henningsen, was for a conditional use permit to construct two 50-feet by 200-feet hog finishing barns in Highland Township. The two swine finishing barns with deep pit manure storage will have an Animal Unit Capacity of 960.

Neary shared that run-off issues were raised, but can be resolved by addressing the problem.

“They could hook into the existing tile,” said Neary, who also noted that the site meets the county’s Good Neighbor Policy.

The Supervisors moved to approve the site.

The third site, submitted by Lynn Underwood, was for one 51-feet by 365-feet hog finishing barn in Independence Township. The facility would have deep pit manure storage.

“This site was unable to meet the Good Neighbor Policy separation distances,” Neary shared. “There are other drainage concerns, as well, and Planning and Zoning would prefer it not be built.”

Lynn Underwood was in attendance at the meeting and introduced himself to the Supervisors, noting that he had purchased the farm site in question last year and was looking for ways to pay for the property. Underwood resides in Kossuth County.

“Mike and Janet [Underwood’s neighbors to the site] did express their objections,” said Underwood. “It’s tough to explain to them how I have lived next to a hog confinement for years and I’m OK.”

“I’m obligated to document the comments from last night’s meeting and send them to the DNR,” Neary stated. “I know Mike and Janet are concerned about the loss of value of their home because of the close proximity of the hog barn. They’re also concerned about their quality of life. They believe it’s not morally or ethically right.”

Since the proposed site does not meet the county’s Good Neighbor Policy, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny the permit.

Underwood expressed disappointment in the decision.

“I own a hog building, too,” Supervisor Ed Noonan addressed Underwood. “And I abide by the Good Neighbor Policy.”

Underwood said, “As time goes on, the policy is going to become a problem. I didn’t know about the policy before I purchased this farm. I don’t have a choice.”

“You always have a choice,” countered Supervisor Leo Goeders.

“The Board of Supervisors needs to support the Planning and Zoning Commission,” said Keith Wirtz, chairman of the board. “They don’t have an easy job.”

The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors then voted unanimously to deny the construction permit to Lynn Underwood.

Neary noted that only four hog barn sites had ever been built in Palo Alto County, which were located less than one mile from their closest neighbor.