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Planning commission hears rezoning request

WORTHINGTON — Despite the opposition of several neighbors, the Nobles County Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday night granted initial approval of a request by Brad Behrends and Jesse Flynn to rezone a parcel in the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 4, Bigelow Township.

The 5.79-acre parcel is located within the unincorporated village of Org, and is currently zoned for residential land use. Behrends and Flynn requested the land be rezoned as general industry to allow them to construct a warehouse on the property and utilize the site for billboard advertising. The land is located just west of Minnesota 60, south of Worthington.

“Our understanding was we couldn’t ask to rezone it just to put up billboards,” said Flynn.

Behrends said the warehouse will serve primarily as storage space for his Worthington business, Behrends Sign Works.

“If somebody needs to put a boat in there, there’s a possibility … to rent (space),” he said.

Flynn said the two had also talked about putting in some mini-storage units, but “that would probably be many years in the future.”

Randy Erwin, who resides in Org, was the first to speak when the meeting was opened to public comment.

“I just want to know what this ‘maybe rental’ means,” Erwin asked. “Are we going to have rental business there with all this traffic?”

Erwin said he wouldn’t support the request because of the amount of traffic it could generate. Harold Jenkins, another neighbor, sided with Erwin for the same reason.

Marv Anderson said he was concerned about what the development would do to impact property taxes, and also had concerns about business access.

Prior to the public comments, Nobles County Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith read a letter from the Minnesota Department of Transportation regarding the proposed rezoning. In the letter, MnDOT said it maintains access control along this segment of Minnesota 60, and no direct access to the proposed warehouse would be allowed. MnDOT also stated the owners would need to handle their own stormwater runoff.

In response to Erwin’s concerns about traffic, commission member Gerald Erstad said mini-storage units are low-impact business. He said he has 200 units behind his Worthington business and there “might be five cars at most” who drive through during the course of a day.

With no specific plans at this time for mini-storage, Flynn said the warehouse they have planned for the site would be no larger than 40- by 100-feet, and it could be placed on the site while meeting all of the setback requirements.

The Environmental Services office received two phone calls from neighbors who said they had no objections to the rezoning request.

As for Jenkins’ concern about the impact on property taxes, commission members Steve Brake and Brent Feikema said a warehouse would add value to the property and increase tax benefits to the township.

Commission members unanimously approved the rezoning request. It will advance to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for final comment and action on April 8, shortly after the 9 a.m. board meeting start.

In other action, the planning commission:

  • Approved a request for a conditional use permit for Joe Henning, Lismore, to construct a total confinement hog barn with a concrete pit below in the northwest quarter of Section 28, Wilmont Township. The action followed approval earlier in the evening for a variance request to move the barn closer to the west property line, creating more space between the development and the community of St. Kilian.

The barn will house 2,400 head of pigs. Water will come either from rural water or be trucked in from Joe’s uncle’s farm nearby.

  • Approved a request from David Van Ruler, Rushmore, for a conditional use permit to expand a cattle feedlot in the north half of the southeast quarter of Section 14, Little Rock Township.

The 5.6-acre site already houses 300 head of cattle, and Van Ruler wants to expand to 500 head.

Due to the size of the site and the number of cattle proposed, Van Ruler is working with his neighbor, Dean Hokeness, to provide a 50-foot-wide by 500-foot-long grass buffer strip in order to meet separation distance guidelines to filter manure runoff.

Essentially, less than an acre of the land Hokeness farms (the parcel is owned by his mother-in-law), will be part of Van Ruler’s manure management plan to bring the site into compliance.

“I don’t have a problem putting the filter strip in there,” Hokeness said.

Nobles County Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith said he had some concerns about the site.

“When you have to use the property line for a pollution hazard, it’s real easy for the manure to run off on your neighbor’s (land),” Smith said. “In this case, the farmers are working together to try to make it work … that’s why it’s easy to support David’s application tonight.”

It was suggested to Van Ruler that he enter into an easement agreement with the property owner to protect himself in case something changes in the future.

  • Approved a resolution adopting the county’s new floodplain maps. The action repeals floodplain maps dated March 7, 2006, and replaces them with new maps dated March 5, 2014.

“This is what is needed so people can buy floodplain insurance in Nobles County,” Smith said, adding that the new maps replace those created in 1964. The planning and zoning commission’s approval will advance the resolution to the Nobles County Board for consideration on April 8.

  • Directed Smith to develop a resolution pertaining to necessary updates to the county’s ordinances. The plan is to retain an attorney who specializes in county ordinances and variances to assist with the revisions.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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