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Updated: Planning Commission OK's high-profile Zumbrota feedlot

The third floor meeting room in the Government Center was packed on Monday night, Feb. 13, 2017, for a meeting of the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission and a public hearing on a proposed swine barn in Zumbrota Township. (photo by Kit Murray) 1 / 2
Members of the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission listen Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, to public comments on a proposed feedlot in Zumbrota Township. (photo by Kit Murray) 2 / 2

Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission unanimously recommended approval Monday, Feb. 13, for a permit request by Circle K Family Farms to build a hog feedlot in Zumbrota Township. The high-profile project attracted dozens of comments during a hearing prior to the vote.  

After listening to almost 30 people express their thoughts and concerns about the proposed swine barn, which will house up to 4,700 hogs, the board noted that the county is primarily an agriculture zone and the proposal meets the necessary requirements.

Circle K Family Farms is owned by the Kohlnhofer family. John Kohlnhofer, one of three brothers to own the lot, briefly spoke at the meeting before the hearing opened, stating that the mandatory steps for the lot have been completed.

John Kohlnhofer addresses the Planning Commission Feb. 13. (photo by Kit Murray)The lot has been reviewed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, including an environmental assessment worksheet and findings of fact.

Listed on the findings of fact are more than 100 items, including details on wells near the facility and the effects it might have on water quality as well as air quality impacts, such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and odor emissions.  

The concerns brought up reflected the size of the lot, amount of odor and waste it would produce and the effect it would have on the community as a whole.

“One thing I’m concerned about is Zumbrota is becoming quite an arts center,” Melissa Driscoll of Zumbrota said. “I think a huge confinement facility is going to negatively affect the arts culture.”

The project would include a 12-foot deep manure storage pit under the confinement barn floor, built of reinforced concrete.

“My daughter has asthma which will most likely be made worse by the manure pit,” Leslie Luhman of Mazeppa said.

Stated on the MPCA findings of fact, the project will generate approximately 1,543,950 gallons of manure annually. That manure will be used on Kohlnhofers’ fields and fields owned by third parties.

Citizens of Zumbrota and surrounding communities openly expressed their frustration with the large project. Those who testified Monday night said they feel violations exist in ordinances concerning pollution control and urged the county to do a better job with being transparent.

“The consequences of this large of a facility, not on a family farm, seems to me it poses very little risk to those who own the land and a lot of risk to the people who live there,” Beth Slocum of Welch said. “It will have a very detrimental impact to the neighbors.”

After listening for over two hours, members of the PAC wanted to make sure the audience was aware of the legalities. The Circle K farm facility is large enough not to have small farm laws. Sarah Pettit, member of the PAC, spoke on how citizens should continue to keep an eye on this farm and to report anything unusual.

The PAC recommendation will go before Goodhue County Board Tuesday, Feb. 21. The board meets 9 a.m. in the Government Center.

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

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