Planning Commission discusses zoning changes for feedlot setbacks

WILLMAR -- If a change in wording is made in the Kandiyohi County zoning ordinance, new, large feedlots would have to be set back one mile from Willmar and 1/2 mile from smaller towns and special districts in the county.

WILLMAR -- If a change in wording is made in the Kandiyohi County zoning ordinance, new, large feedlots would have to be set back one mile from Willmar and ½ mile from smaller towns and special districts in the county.

The Kandiyohi County Planning Commission held preliminary talks Tuesday on potential changes to the zoning ordinance that would affect how close new feedlots could be to municipalities and the four "special districts" in the county.

The discussion came about from the county's approval in August of turkey barns near Hawick.

Residents from the unincorporated community in northern Kandiyohi County, and the Roseville Township board, objected to the conditional use permits the county granted to Jennie-O Turkey Store for the barns.

They complained that the barns were too close to residences and should be required to be setback a greater distance.


The county doesn't have setbacks from municipalities for feedlots, but does require conditional use permits, said Zoning Administrator Gary Geer. Currently the county requires conditional use permits for all feedlots of 300 or more animal units.

Geer said it also has trigger language that requires conditional use permits for smaller feedlots of 10 animal units or more if they are one mile from towns greater than 10,000 population, ½ mile from towns and special districts with fewer than 10,000 people, ¼ mile from a church, school or public park or ¼ mile from R-1, R-2 or R-3 residential districts.

Using those guidelines, the county approved the feedlots by Hawick. The vote was split, however, which drew attention to the somewhat arbitrary nature of how some conditional use permits are approved and others denied.

Out of frustration with the procedure and the end result, the Roseville Town Board took legal action to place a one-year moratorium on new feedlot construction in the township. It also began a process to explore establishing its own zoning regulations.

Recently, the Roseville Town Board asked the County Board to consider changing the county zoning ordinance to provide more protection to the residents in the Hawick area from being surrounded by turkey barns.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson, who represents the Roseville Township area, said if people there are satisfied with the changes the county puts in the zoning ordinance, they may drop the moratorium and decide not oversee their own zoning.

An option Geer presented to the planning commission was to remove the language that triggers conditional use permits and replace it with firm setbacks.

He proposed using the same distance for the setbacks as what are currently used to trigger the conditional use permits.


"We're using the same numbers," Geer said, but they would be called setbacks and not triggers for a conditional use permit.

The setbacks would only apply to new feedlots and would not affect expansions of existing feedlots. However, Geer said clear definitions of what is meant by an expansion would have to be spelled out.

He said that if the proposed zoning changes had been in place this summer when Jennie-O sought the permits for barns near Hawick, the end result would have been the same because Jennie-O was seeking permits to expand existing feedlots there.

Commissioner Richard Larson said he found the discussion on the possible zoning changes "very valuable" but said a change shouldn't be made quickly without giving it careful thought.

Larson said the Planning Commission and staff will need to research potential changes very carefully before they're brought to the full County Board for action.

In other business, the Planning Commission approved conditional use permits for the following applicants:

- Corey Mottinger, for an expansion to an existing building to house vehicles for his trucking business, located in St. John's Township.

- Children Therapy Works, Inc., which is relocating from Willmar to the former Whitney Music building in Dovre Township. The business provides outpatient occupational and speech therapy in a pediatric clinic setting.


- The board also agreed to a request by Nelson Properties, LLC to rezone property in Green Lake Township from A-2 general agriculture to commercial industrial. The company intends to use existing buildings for boat storage.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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