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Board pauses on feedlot permit

The Wadena County Board delayed approving a conditional use permit for a commercial feedlot in section 17 of Wing River Township that has raised concerns from some neighbors.

Commissioner Ralph Miller wanted more time before making a judgement on an issue that will affect people's lives for a considerable amount of time, he said.

"I am going to make a decision," he said. "I am just not comfortable yet."

Miller was concerned about the number of existing cattle on the property and about the use of the word "commercial," he said.

Approximately 20 people attended the Feb. 3 hearing to regarding a CUP that will allow up to 999 animal units for Erik and Melissa Olsson in an A-3 general agriculture district.

Six people expressed support for the feedlot, while four said they were opposed to the CUP.

Dan Middendorf of Verndale said the county needs animal agriculture. Wadena County is one of the better counties for this industry, he said.

"And we'd like to see more agriculture in this country," Middendorf said. "It really needs animal agriculture for the financial base and for the people base."

Those who spoke against the CUP raised concerns about odor, noise, groundwater contamination and about the size and suitability of the land for the number of cattle.

Beth Cottrell of Sebeka said her young family has invested heavily in Wadena County. When the Cottrells bought their 120 acres in 2005 from her grandmother, every home surrounding them was an asset to them, she said.

"The quality of life we moved here to enjoy is now in jeopardy," she said.

They've spoken to neighbors of the feedlot north of Verndale, and they say the smell is constant and awful, Cottrell said. They can't have their windows open during the warm months.

Ken Moyer of Verndale raised questions about the amount of waste the cattle will produce compared to how much land the Olssons own.

"It just doesn't seem like that's going to be near enough land," he said.

Doug Bounds of Jamestown N.D., who owns 40 acres north of the Olssons' property, said the commercial feedlot is agribusiness and not an idyllic family farm.

"Since it is a business it should be evaluated on the same criteria as any business that is coming into the county," he said.

Zoning Administrator Deana Skov said she felt that public testimony and consideration by the planning commission was complete.

"For our purposes they still have to do everything according to what the feedlot rules are," she said.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will be involved, she said, especially with the permit allowing up to 999 animal units.

The planning commission recommended the county board approve the Olsson's application for the CUP. Several of the commission's findings of facts were:

• The MPCA will monitor runoff.

• The requested use is compatible with the surrounding area and will not significantly depreciate nearby properties that much.

• The requested use is consistent with the Wadena County Land Use Control Ordinance.

Commissioner Bill Stearns said he couldn't recall a time when the county didn't go along with the planning commission's recommendations. It would be very hard not to vote in favor of the CUP because it is an A-3 general agriculture area, he said.

Commissioner Lane Waldahl said he is a stickler for following the law, and if the MPCA says they're following the law, the board needs to go by that.

The board will vote on approving the CUP at its Feb. 19 meeting.

Commissioner Rodney Bounds, who lives in the Bluegrass area of rural Verndale, was advised by the county attorney to abstain from voting on this issue, he said.

"There's a lot of unknowns there, even though I can't vote one way or the other, I think should be addressed as well," Bounds said.