New substation, home-extended business addressed by Nobles County Planning Commission

WORTHINGTON -- The Nobles County Planning Commission on Wednesday heard requests for two conditional use permits, both of which will now go before the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for final consideration Tuesday morning.

WORTHINGTON - The Nobles County Planning Commission on Wednesday heard requests for two conditional use permits, both of which will now go before the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for final consideration Tuesday morning.

The first request, from Nobles Cooperative Electric, is to construct an electrical substation on property owned by Daniel Watry in the northwest corner of the northwest quarter of Section 7, Larkin Township. The substation will be located directly south of the St. Anthony Cemetery along Minnesota 91 near Lismore.

Adam Tromblay and Brian Postma, representing the cooperative, said the new substation will replace three older substations, and will connect in with the transmission line that runs along Minnesota 91.

“We want to stay around the Lismore area due to power quality and the load up there,” Postma told planning commission members. “The Watrys were generous enough to provide this piece of land. If it goes through, we’ll pursue the purchase.”

While the county’s environmental services office had no concerns with the proposed location, a Larkin Township board member requested that the road be put back into the same shape as exists prior to construction of the substation. He also cautioned that snow does, and will continue to be blown to the south, away from the cemetery, which may cause issues with driveway access for the cooperative.


Tromblay said once the substation is operational, the site will only be accessed about once a month.

Linda Loonan, a neighboring landowner, spoke in opposition to the location of the substation, saying the cooperative should “have some respect for the dead.”

“There’s a whole half mile of Watry land going down to the city dump,” she said. “Build it down there, but not by the cemetery.”

Postma said that other than during construction, there will be little noise or activity at the site, saying the most people will hear is a humming sound.

Tromblay, meanwhile, said the Watrys were the fourth landowner they approached and the only landowner willing to sell some land.

“I don’t see how it’s disrespectful,” Tromblay said of the location.

Postma noted that the elevation drops off on the Watry land, so building it farther to the south would increase the amount of transmission line needed.

Planning Commission member Marv Zylstra said there are no setback requirements to preclude a substation from being erected next to a cemetery, however he said there should be some respect for cemeteries. As a result, he voted against the cooperative’s request and was the lone vote in opposition.


Mike’s Mini-Excavating requests permit for rural Fulda business Also on Wednesday, the commission acted on the continuation of a request dating back to December, when Mike Fogelman, doing business as Mike’s Mini-Excavating, requested a conditional use permit to operate a home extended business at 31344 130th St., Fulda.

Fogelman’s business will include stockpiling rock, dirt, clay, asphalt and concrete; doing asphalt and concrete crushing on site; operating an ag drainage business, offering resale of ag drainage material, operating a subsurface sewage treatment system installation business and applying household septage to MPCA permitted lands.

Last December, the commission approved of Fogelman’s request, but when officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources spoke out against the permit at the subsequent county board meeting, it was sent back to the planning commission with a request that more information be gathered.

The board was slated to act on the request in late January, but upon discovery that Fogelman didn’t reside on the property yet, the permit could not be granted. The Fogelmans have since moved to the Seward Township property.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Planning and Zoning Administrator Kathy Henderschiedt said the DNR has requested that the asphalt be stored in the northwest corner of Fogelman’s property, putting as much distance as possible between the storage site and a farmable wetland that comprises the east side of the parcel. DNR-managed public lands border the Fogelman farm to the east, and are also across the road to the south.

Fogelman said he doesn’t agree with the DNR’s request, and said there’s no evidence of asphalt or concrete causing harm to a wetland. He pointed out that images on the DNR’s own website show paved trails in the vicinity of wetlands.

“I think the DNR kind of jumped the gun on this asphalt thing and turned it into a witch hunt,” Fogelman said. “They pave right through a wetland, and yet they don’t want me stockpiling asphalt.”

Fogelman also reiterated that he has a farmable wetland. He’s repaired tile that was plugged by the previous landowner for creation of a wetland, and also removed a berm in hopes of growing soybeans or alfalfa on the ground in years when it isn’t so wet.


He told the commission he wants to put his stockpile south of the building site at this time, as it would take a lot of time and work to establish a driveway through what is now a grove of trees to reach the northwest corner of his property, where the DNR requested the stockpile be placed.

“I just don’t believe in over-restriction - over-regulating,” Fogelman said.

Zylstra said the commission’s decision should be based on findings of fact, not the DNR’s recommendation.

“I don’t have the expertise that the DNR has,” responded Henderschiedt. “I find out from them and pass that (information) along to you. The entire wetland issue was brought up by the DNR.”

In the end, the commission agreed to recommend approval of the permit request with two conditions - that a township road agreement be created to clarify who will repair damage, if any, caused by increased equipment hauling, along with dust control specifications; and that Fogelman provide the environmental services office with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permits for disposal of household septage on site.

The permit request will be heard by the Nobles County Board of Commissioners shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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