County, hog farm respond to state supreme court appeal

Brian Todd Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn. McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Farm Forum

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Goodhue County and Circle K Family Farms have filed briefs in response to an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court by a group of Zumbrota Township residents opposed to the construction of a new hog barn in their neighborhood.

On Jan. 16, Kristi Rosenquist and three other petitioners appealed a decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals from December that rejected their claims against the Goodhue County Board of Commissioners and Circle K. The petitioners claimed the county had incorrectly applied its ordinances in approving a conditional-use permit last February for the hog confinement facility.

In their appeal to the state supreme court, Rosenquist, et al., claim the appellate decision changed the definition of the word “feedlot” and thereby nullified the county’s odor offset ordinance to require all sources of odor from such a facility. The petitioners point particularly to the dead animal compost pit, which they claim was not adequately included in the odor offset modeling.

“Residents living near proposed Project or other proposed feedlots who are concerned about odor emissions from feedlots were not notified or able to appear at public hearings to object to

amendments and repealing of county feedlot ordinances that regulated odors,” the Jan. 16 appeal states. “The Court of Appeals decision will have the practical effect of subjecting Minnesotans to increased levels of nuisance feedlot odors.”

Both the county and Circle K filed responses last week, stating opposition to the appeal to the state supreme court and asking the court to not takie the case. “We expect a ruling within four to six weeks,” said Jack Perry, an attorney with Briggs and Morgan, a Minneapolis law firm representing Circle K.

The court needs some basis for accepting a case under the discretionary petitions for review process. “Circle K believes that this ‘criteria’ has not been met,” Perry said.

The case seems to hinge on the county’s application of the odor setback model. The appellate court, however, reviewed the application of the odor offset, looking at standards accepted by the University of Minnesota and the county feedlot officer. It also accepted how those results were applied by both the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in its environmental review and the county board in its decision making.

As to the definition of the word “feedlot,” the response by both the county and Circle K questions the charge. “While the Court of Appeals reviewed the definition of a feedlot, this review still does not change the fact the evidence in the record supported the County’s interpretation of the (odor) modeling,” the county contends.

Perry said that if the supreme court decides not to hear the case, there is no further avenue of appeal for the neighbors.

The case may be a last-ditch effort for the petitioners anyway as the appellate court case was the last step holding up construction on the site. If the Minnesota Supreme Court does not hear the case, the Kohlnhofers, the family that owns Circle K, need only get their building permit from the county to begin building the hog facility, Perry said.