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Ocheda Dairy requests for setback variance, expansion get preliminary approval

The conditional use permit will go before the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for final approval at a later date.

Ocheda Dairy Inc. is applying to Nobles County for a permit to expand at 30581 Paul Ave., south of Worthington.
Ocheda Dairy Inc. is applying to Nobles County for a permit to expand at 30581 Paul Ave., south of Worthington.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON — Requests from the owners of Ocheda Dairy Inc. for a setback variance and a conditional use permit for three building additions and two new buildings were granted Wednesday by the Nobles County Board of Adjustment and the Nobles County Planning Commission, respectively.

“We are not asking to change (wastewater) lagoon service at this time,” said Joe VanderKooi, whose family owns Ocheda Dairy. “We really want to keep our odor footprint the same, as we’re trying hard to be a good neighbor.”

The variance granted by the Board of Adjustment will allow the dairy to build 225 feet from the center of Nobles County 57, rather than the 300 feet normally required, within the current boundaries of the property.

“Our goal is, if we ever do anything in the future, to have this figured out and that way, it allows us to plan or know exactly how to lay things out,” VanderKooi said.

Ocheda Dairy Inc. is applying to Nobles County for a permit for expansion at 30581 Paul Ave.
Ocheda Dairy Inc. is applying to Nobles County for a permit to expand at 30581 Paul Ave., south of Worthington.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

Changing the setback would allow the VanderKoois to build a 40- by 120-foot addition to one of its two existing barns. Rather than adding more animals or moving animals closer to the road, though, the space would be used as a sort of indoor driveway, enabling the dairy to keep all its skid loaders and equipment inside, as well as allowing workers to go from pen to pen without going outside, saving time and money.

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The south barn, which already has a variance, has drive-around space on either end, and the VanderKoois hope to mirror that with their north barn.

“That design was not on the market when the original structure was built,” VanderKooi said, noting that it has since become the standard for buildings in the industry.

Extending the variance to any building that might be built within the existing property lines will allow the dairy to maintain consistency in pen sizes between its buildings, including two proposed new structures north of the dairy’s existing buildings. One would be a 400- by 130-foot new milking parlor, and the other would be a new 400- by 320-foot freestall barn, both approved by the Planning Commission as part of the Conditional Use Permit.

The commission also approved an expansion on the southern barn of 60- by 588 feet and a potential 110- by 110-foot expansion of the existing milking parlor, which could provide enough room for a rotary milking arrangement — though the VanderKoois are still exploring possibilities for upgrading the parlor.

The Planning Commission, too, approved adding up to four milk silos to the site, which would allow semi trucks to stop there, wait for the milk to load and then depart.

The VanderKoois are also researching possible additions and upgrades to the dairy that would be much further in the future, such as robotics and a methane digester, both of which VanderKooi noted would require separate permits in the future.

While most conditional use permits are for a year, Ocheda Dairy was given five years, as the projects would likely be consecutive rather than simultaneous, and supply chain issues have made timelines for getting building materials unpredictable.

Only one member of the public spoke about the proposed conditional use permit — Dean Christopherson, a Bigelow Township supervisor, who said the township was concerned that a lot of commodities are traveling on their roads, adding “I’m not complaining, I’m just mentioning it.”

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Both the Nobles County Board of Adjustment and the Nobles County Planning Commission approved the Ocheda Dairy requests unanimously. The conditional use permit will go before the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for final approval at a later date.

READ MORE FROM KARI LUCIN

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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