Feedlot approved after contentious hearing
MANTORVILLE — The Dodge County Planning Commission and then the Dodge County Board on Thursday approved a conditional use permit for a 2,400-hog feedlot in Westfield Township in Dodge County, despite opposition from some neighbors.
The hearing room was filled to overflowing and several people spoke on both sides of the issue during the public hearing. All five county commissioners also attended the meeting.
The original permit was granted in April for applicant Nick Masching. Subsequently, neighbors Lowell and Evelyn Trom began a civil action challenging the permit for 720 animal units for finishing swine, which amounts to 2,400 hogs.
Dodge County District Judge Jodi L. Williamson vacated the permit in November, saying it was incomplete, but she indicated Masching could reapply for the permit. He did.
Speakers against the feedlot said the facility would not follow proper manure management guidelines, but county staff and permit documents indicated the state requirements for transporting and spreading manure were spelled out properly.
A farmer in favor of the feedlot said he had contacted various grain elevators in the region that process millions of bushels of grain for feedlots.
"Three dollars and 60 cents per bushel doesn't excite me very much, but we wouldn't get that without livestock," Roger Toquam said.
Detractors said the manure would flow into county water ways, but zoning administrator Melissa DeVetter said the livestock barn would be a closed system, which is pumped only once per year. Nothing goes into any ditches, she explained.
"Feedlots are so highly regulated by the county and the state," she said. "It's an appropriate use for land in the ag district. We looked at and applied the criteria of our ordinance."
Stacks of documents were given to each member of the planning commission from both proponents and opponents of the feedlot.
DeVetter said staff members inspect 10 percent of the county's 227 feedlots each year.
After the planning commissioners approved the feedlot permit, that meeting was adjourned and the county commissioners reopened their recessed meeting that had begun Thursday morning.
Chair Rod Peterson allowed people to talk again about their reasons for opposing the feedlot or favoring it.
The commissioners decided the county ordinance had been fully complied with and that they were fully informed about the feedlot permit request.
Commissioner Tim Tjosaas said, "We're an ag county. We're going to continue to have these issues. We'll never be able to avert every lively discussion."
The commissioners then unanimously approved the permit again.