Judge gives win to opponents of planned egg-laying operation

Farm Forum

PARKER, S.D. (AP) — A judge has struck down Turner County’s zoning ordinance, providing at least a temporary victory for opponents of a large egg-laying operation planned near Parker.

Sioux Falls-based Sonstegard Foods plans to put 6 million birds on a farm 2½ miles from Parker, but opponents believe that’s too close and will cause problems such as odor. They sued in February, contending the County Commission approved new zoning regulations without proper public notice or input from county planners.

Judge Tim Bjorkman on September 29 sided with the opponents, saying their rights had been violated, the Argus Leader newspaper reported (http://argusne.ws/1LjNnKu ).

The manner in which the new rules were adopted “contravened basic notions of due process and the specific dictates of South Dakota law by depriving property owners and the public of a meaningful opportunity to be heard as to the business its government was considering,” Bjorkman wrote in his ruling.

Opponents’ lawyer Mike Schaffer said he was pleased with the decision, “but it’s unfortunate that my clients had to incur the expense of a lawsuit when the commissioners should have followed the law in the first place.”

Commissioners believe they did follow the law, and both they and the company have the option of appealing Bjorkman’s ruling. The commission also could revisit the same ordinance with more public notice and input and ultimately adopt it again, though any such decision could be referred to a public vote.

Sonstegard officials have said they’re designing a facility to minimize odor, and that the chicken farm will create more than 150 jobs. It would have 10 barns, two dry manure buildings, a processing plant and a feed mill, and would buy grain from local farmers and sell them manure for fertilizer.