Moody County Commissioners said it would be unlikely they would give Dakota Layers permission to build a 160,000 free-range chicken laying facility east of Trent.
The commissioners said zoning laws, which became more restrictive in bird numbers in December, do not allow this and such an operation at this location is above the shallow aquifer, which has rules in place for its protection.
The company offered another option on Friday. Dakota Layers has applied for five locations, on family-owned property in the county, where she wants permission to build facilities with fewer birds in each. Four of them would be a Class D concentrate feed operation, and one would be a Class C, both smaller than the original Class A, said Kendra Eng, the county zoning administrator.
While several sites are less efficient and a more expensive way to do business, the larger expansion at one location did not appear to be approved by the committee after the May 4 meeting.
“We went ahead and did this whole project knowing at the time that we bought everything we were in compliance,” said Scott Ramsdell of Dakota Layers. He said he hoped the commission could make an exception because laying hens are smaller than other birds, including turkeys.
“They are not bigger birds. They are smaller birds, ”he says. “They don’t have enough garbage that your rules say.”
Jason Unger, attorney for Dakota Layers, said the zoning change eliminated the laying hen category and asked if this could be put back into the regulations.
Commissioners told Ramsdell and Unger that they had publicly announced that they were working on new zoning ordinances at the time, so the company should have known this was happening. The commissioners also said that a larger laying facility could not be approved because it sits above the shallow aquifer, which must be protected as a source of drinking water.
Dakota Layers bought 120 acres of land seven miles south of Flandreau, at the intersection of 239th Street and 480th Avenue, in November. Birds on site would produce dry waste, which would be stored temporarily at the site and then removed for use as fertilizer.
For the Ramsdell family, who own Dakota Layers, it is too late now to completely abandon a $ 16 million plan for the property as contracts have already been approved, including agreements with clients. According to the original plan, the business would have started with a flock of 20,000 hens and reached 160,000 birds. Under the new plan, they would reduce that to a smaller number.
The new barns are located in a different location from the company’s main CAFOC north of Flandreau, where more than a million hens produce eggs inside biosecurity zones in a sterile environment. They are never outside. The expansion plan aims to meet growing market demand for free-range, organic and other eggs, in which the hens will have time to leave the barn for part of the day.
Commissioner John Schiefelbein asked if Dakota Layers could have applied for conditional use of the egg production facility before purchasing the land.
Dakota Layers looked at the rules in place at the time and based their decision on it, Ramsdell said.
“Based on your rules, we were doing fine,” he said. “We were basing ourselves on the rules that we knew were in place at the time.”
Dakota Layers also renovated the old Dakota Transformer building in Flandreau for its egg packaging facility. Plans call for production by summer 2022.
Commissioner Rick Veldkamp said none of the commissioners was an expert and relied on ordinances used by other counties. “I don’t know how we can envision changing that,” he said.
In other commission business,
• In a tie vote that was broken and approved by President Carla Bruning, the commission agreed to spend up to $ 100,000 to install a hard surface road near River Bend Dairy southeast of Trent. The money would come from a rebate the county expects to get from the state for the dairy’s investment.
Commissioners Veldkamp and Dan Miles supported the plan, while Schiefelbein and Randy Hemmer opposed it.
• Schiefelbein brought two envelopes to the meeting, saying he contacted companies to get sealed bids to repaint the county road storage garage across from the elementary playground. He also told county highway workers to remove some old signs from the building.
“It’s a horror,” he said.
The commissioners had not given any pre-approval or publicity for the paint submissions, so the submissions could not be hidden from the official sealed submissions. State Attorney Paul Lewis said the bid amounts, $ 5,541 and $ 8,000, were low enough that the commission was not required to advertise the bids.
Lewis said Shiefelbein did not break any laws in seeking information about the paint from two contractors, but combined with asking county employees to do specific work, the actions are out of normal decorum for elected officials. , who do not have direct authority over the allocation of work to the employees of each department. It is the responsibility of their supervisor.
Commissioners voted to approve the estimate by Brad Grootwassink of Flandreau, which had the lowest cost.