Renville County will decide feedlot permit despite moratorium

OLIVIA -- Renville County's board of commissioners will act on a conditional use permit for a large hog feedlot proposed in Wang Township at its meeting Tuesday.

OLIVIA -- Renville County's board of commissioners will act on a conditional use permit for a large hog feedlot proposed in Wang Township at its meeting Tuesday.

The commissioners will decide on the permit request despite action just over a week ago by the Wang Township board of supervisors to place a one-year moratorium on large feedlot construction in the township.

County Attorney David Torgelson told the commissioners on Tuesday that they are obligated to act on the conditional use permit application within 60 days of the recommendation made by the county's planning and zoning commission to approve it.

If they fail to either approve or deny the permit, it automatically is granted without the special conditions it now contains, he told the commissioners. Torgelson emphasized that Wang Township was well within its legal rights to adopt the one year moratorium while it worked to develop its own feedlot ordinance. Nonetheless, the county is still obligated by law to act on the permit application. "That doesn't mean we can just put this on the back burner,'' said the attorney.

Roger and Nancy Punt of Renville are seeking to erect two confinement buildings to hold a total of 4,800 head of feeder pigs at a farm site in Section One of Wang Township.


Neighbors to the five-acre site are strongly opposed to the proposal: They filled the Wang Town Hall on Nov. 7 to encourage the township to impose a one-year moratorium on large feedlots.

The commissioners have expressed some concerns about the project too, but discussions at Tuesday's meeting indicate that they are inclined to approve the permit.

The commissioners pointed out that the application meets all of the county's permit requirements.

It comes down to a choice of either approving a permit with the conditions now agreed to, or doing nothing and letting a permit be granted automatically without conditions, said board chairman Paul Setzepfandt.

Given those options, he suggested he was in favor of acting on the permit.

The permit applicants, who are doing business as RANCO LLC., have indicated they are willing to install biofilters on the two confinement buildings to reduce odors and gas and dust emissions. The applicants have also indicated in letters to the county that they are willing to install a buffer strip along Judicial Ditch 1, which is just over 300 feet from the buildings.

If the commissioners decide to deny the permit application, they must be ready to show a factual basis for doing so, Torgelson told the commissioners. It would take evidence "over and above neighborhood opposition'' to deny the permit, according to the attorney.

Otherwise, the attorney warned the commissioners that they could be accused of being arbitrary and capricious in their action. The county would be subject to litigation and the prospect of having the denial overturned in court.


If the commissioners award the permit as appears likely, Torgelson said they would need to consider granting more than the usual one-year period for construction to occur.

The current debate has already triggered greater scrutiny of the county's rules governing feedlots. County Environment and Community Director Mark Erickson told the commissioners that his office is currently beginning its annual review of feedlot ordinances.

The commissioners also voiced concerns over reports that some large feedlots are being selective in granting access to their manure. The commissioners said they would like to see access to manure provided on an open market basis, but they do not believe the county could police such a requirement.

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