Group appeals decision on large Swift County feedlot
MURDOCK -- A citizens group is challenging the Swift County Board's approval of a permit for what will likely be the largest dairy in the state. Swift County Citizens for Responsible Growth filed an appeal Thursday in the Minnesota Court of Appea...
MURDOCK -- A citizens group is challenging the Swift County Board's approval of a permit for what will likely be the largest dairy in the state.
Swift County Citizens for Responsible Growth filed an appeal Thursday in the Minnesota Court of Appeals against the issuance of a conditional use permit on Feb. 7 to East Dublin Dairy. The 6,600-cow feedlot will be located south of Kerkhoven and Murdock.
The group is asking the Court of Appeals to overturn the County Board's decision on the permit.
The Swift County Board of Commissioners, Swift County and East Dublin Dairy LLP are listed as respondents in the case.
The 10-member group said the board's decision was made on the "improper and incomplete" decision by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to not require an environmental impact statement on the project, according to a petitioners' statement.
An environmental impact statement is an in-depth study of specific environmental issues related to a project.
A shorter environmental review, called an environmental assessment worksheet, had been completed for the project.
In a separate appeal in Swift County District Court, the group is challenging the MPCA's decision on the environmental impact statement.
"If the MPCA was wrong, then their permit was invalid," said Jim Peters, an attorney representing the citizens group.
The group also wants the permit decision overturned because it believes its approval was done arbitrarily and capriciously because it thinks the project did not meet standards in the county feedlot ordinance.
The group also said the county failed to make adequate findings to support the project's decision.
The group said in a press release Tuesday that the Swift County Planning Commission failed to read evidence and testimony on the record, voted improperly and granted an "extraordinary" amount of time to the feedlot presenters during public comment periods.
The decision also raises conflict of interest issues because one of the feedlot presenters, Tom Walsh, is a Planning Commission member, according to the group's press release.
Walsh did not participate in the Planning Commission's discussions about the permit or vote on it.
The group "believes the Planning Commission acted improperly in their consideration of the CUP (conditional use permit) and therefore the commissioners acted on an improper permit request," reads the press release.
The Planning Commission recommended the permit for approval 4-2, and the County Board approved it unanimously.
Swift County Attorney Robin Finke the board was not arbitrary and capricious in its decision and said it followed the county ordinance.
"It basically comes down to this is a volatile issue, and there are strong opinions on both sides," he said.
The environmental impact statement issue is "another story" that will be decided in another court, Finke said. The County Board has to "go with what the state says" regarding the environmental impact statement, he said.
The dairy's manure will be stored in a 53-million-gallon basin and spread following fall harvest. Nine of the fields the dairy will use are within 2 miles of either Kerkhoven or Murdock.
It will be located in the same township as Dublin Dairy, which has some of the same investors as the East Dublin Dairy.
The group is concerned about how the feedlot would affect the Shakopee Creek, Chippewa River and Minnesota River, according to court documents.
No hearings have been set for the appeal to the conditional use permit. Those hearings will be held in either St. Paul or St. Cloud.
A preliminary hearing for the appeal on the environmental impact statement is scheduled for May 4 in Swift County District Court in Benson.