Couple sues to overturn feedlot approval

By Hannah Yang
Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

MANTORVILLE, Minn. — Two residents have filed suit to overturn approval of a feedlot in Ripley Township in Dodge County, Minn.

Lowell and Evelyn Trom, of rural Dodge County, sued Ripley Township and Ripley Township of Adjustments and Appeals and applicants Timothy and Jennifer Langdon after the township approved a hog farm. The Troms say the farm would be the 12th feedlot within a 3-mile radius of their farm, according to a statement.

The complaint was filed in district court on Feb. 27. Court documents allege Ripley Township “failed and refused to enforce Township Zoning Ordinances requiring public notice and complete application information. The Township also improperly granted a variance and conditional use permit for the proposed project, consisting of 2,400 pigs or 720 animal units.”

Township ordinances require 7.5 acres for feedlots of 10 to 100 animal units. The Troms argue the 5-acre parcel belonging to the Langdons is limited to fewer than 10 animal units, or 33 hogs.

In addition, they point out an ordinance requirement that the owner or manager of a feedlot live on-site. The Langdons live near Cannon Falls and “didn’t intend to live on the site, while the Troms will be forced to smell the stench and deal with the other adverse effects” of the feedlot, according to the suit.

The Troms’ complaint also claims Ripley Township officials ignored a 22-page letter and other documentation provided by Sonja Eayrs, an attorney and the daughter of the Troms, and other residents regarding “serious public health and environmental issues related to factory farms, including the cumulative effects of the noxious odors and hydrogen sulfide emissions from feedlots in the immediate vicinity.”

Attorney Jeff Brown, who will be representing the Troms, stated that the township failed to follow its own ordinances and policies, and that due diligence was not given to the application process of the feedlot.

“(The Troms) are simply wanting them to follow (the township’s) own rules, which they have not,” Brown said on May 7. “The application was so woefully incomplete … the courts will find that the public was not properly notified and we expect that the conditions would be reversed.”

Roger Toquam, a Ripley Township supervisor, declined to comment and referred interview requests to attorney Paul Reuvers, who will represent the township in legal proceedings.

Reuvers, who is based in Bloomington and represented Dodge County in two earlier lawsuits involving the Troms, said he was “not at all surprised” the approved hog farm would be the source of more legal action. He was notified about the case Feb. 28. Regarding this lawsuit, it’s expected it could be nine months to a year before the court makes a ruling.

Reuvers said he’s confident Ripley Township officials and the Langdons would be cleared.

“Our view is that the township fully complied with all its legal obligations,” Reuvers said. “The Troms are no strangers to challenging feedlots in Dodge County. … They’ve sued Dodge County twice, and they lost both of those suits. They did not prevail in either of those suits, and I don’t expect they’ll prevail in this one, either.”