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Variance awarded for farmer to build hog barn

WORTHINGTON -- The Nobles County Board of Adjustment voted Wednesday evening to allow a rural Wilmont farmer to build a swine barn within 880 feet of a neighboring residence. County ordinance requires 1,320 feet, or one-quarter-mile, separation b...

WORTHINGTON - The Nobles County Board of Adjustment voted Wednesday evening to allow a rural Wilmont farmer to build a swine barn within 880 feet of a neighboring residence. County ordinance requires 1,320 feet, or one-quarter-mile, separation between a livestock facility with up to 299 animal units.

Keith Spartz, Wilmont, presented plans to construct a 168- by 82-foot total confinement swine barn in the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 33, Larkin Township.

Nobles County Planning and Zoning Administrator Kathy Henderschiedt told board members Spartz could have had a walk-in, walk-out permit if he constructed the barn on the northern end of the quarter, where he would meet all setback requirements. Instead, Spartz wanted the barn on the south end of the parcel so it would be closer to his father-in-law’s home, which is the property being encroached upon. The father-in-law, Gary Honermann, had encouraged Spartz to build the barn in the southwest corner.

“It is less favorable crop land,” Spartz said of the location, noting he may add a second nursery barn in the future.

He also said he may end up on the Honermann farm someday - it’s been in the family for 126 years - and would prefer to be close to his barns.

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“I’d hate to drive around the section to go do chores,” Spartz added. Also, the site is on a hill, which will provide better ventilation.

Board member Brent Feikema said that because the nearest homeowner is family, he could see the barn going in the spot where Spartz wanted it.

“If this is an outside (the family) neighbor … it wouldn’t fly,” Feikema said.

Board members voted unanimously to allow the variance, and placed conditions on the permit requiring Spartz to file building plans with environmental services, provide dead animal containment and have all permits in place before construction begins.

Commission hears request for storage facility Following the Board of Adjustment, the Nobles County Planning Commission met to hear a request from Terry Pigman, Worthington, to construct a 28- by 80-foot mini storage facility at 28159 Paul Ave., south of Worthington. A conditional use permit is required to operate a home-extended business.

Pigman said he was aware of the need for storage areas in the community and that he will have spaces available to rent out to the public for storage of boats, snowmobiles and other items people would like to put in storage.

“There’s space where it will fit good and not bother anyone else,” he said, adding that the doors will face east, toward the road.

Planning Commission member Dave Vander Kooi, who farms directly south of the Pigman property, was concerned about the potential for Pigman to build additional mini storage units on the site, saying it would increase the amount of rainwater runoff that would flow onto his farmland.

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Pigman said he plans to put a berm along the south side of his property to hold the water back from reaching Vander Kooi’s land.

The commission then voted to recommend approval of Pigman’s request, with the following conditions: weed control be provided, a berm be installed and that the storage facility be built according to specifications.

The commission’s recommendation will now advance to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for final consideration at its June 5 meeting.

County feedlot ordinance discussed During both the Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission meetings, Henderschiedt spoke to board and commission members about the county’s feedlot ordinance. Over the course of the next few months, she wants the appointed members to consider the ordinance currently in place and if changes are needed.

The reason for the re-evaluation is that too many variances are being granted for livestock producers who are encroaching on setback requirements to the nearest neighbor, Henderschiedt said. Nobles County Attorney Kathleen Kusz said variances should rarely be granted.

“If you go strictly with the ordinance then you don’t need a variance committee,” responded Board of Adjustment member Bruce Lease.

“Exactly. But if you say yes to every variance that comes along, then why do you have an ordinance?” Kusz asked. “The idea with a variance is you should almost always say no. It’s supposed to be a rare thing that you grant it - it’s supposed to be something you say no to.”

Henderschiedt said she wants board and commission members to think about what distance is close enough.

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“What is the magic number of what a feedlot needs to be from a neighboring residence - that anything less than that is too close?” Henderschiedt asked. “You need to think about how you would feel if you lived on an acreage and someone wanted to put a 1,000-head (livestock facility) a quarter mile away from your house.”

The issue will be discussed at future meetings. Henderschiedt said she’d like to have the evaluation completed and any recommended changes within the next four months. If there are recommended changes to the ordinance, a public hearing would be required. At that time, comment would be gathered from Nobles County residents.

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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