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Circle K Family Farms decision to be tested in Minnesota Court of Appeals

County commissioners listened while Circle K family farm owners discussed their lot. (photos by Kit Murray)1 / 2
As soon as the Circle K permit was approved for the hog farm, Zumbrota citizens rose to hand commissioners a list of violated zoning ordinance and announced that they will be filing a lawsuit with the Minnesota Court of Appeals2 / 2

Tuesday's County Board meeting was met with anticipation by Zumbrota citizens. A controversial conditional-use permit passed by a unanimous 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Jason Majerus withholding his vote and backing out of discussion, due to ties with Circle K family farm.

With a crowd of about 20 concerned neighbors to Circle K, Zumbrota citizens hoped commissioners would hear their concerns and hold off on approval for the hog feedlot. The motion passed after a half-hour discussion and the addition of one more condition by Commissioner Brad Anderson.

The fifth condition added by Anderson will have Circle K plant trees to help block odor from the hog farm. Kohlnhofers agreed to the added condition.

The Kohlnhofers propose a factory farm with enough room for 4,700 hogs and a 3.5 million gallon liquid manure pit in Zumbrota Township. Findings of fact state that the project will generate 1,543,950 gallons of manure annually. The 12-foot deep manure storage pit would be part of a new 254-by-163-foot confinement barn.

Commissioner Paul Drotos wanted to make it clear that he had listened to those who spoke against the lot during the Planning Advising Commission meeting Monday, Feb. 13. Zumbrota citizens said the hog farm would affect their quality of life with strong odor and contribute to poor air quality. Many of the neighbors didn't hesitate to call or email commissioners to further voice their opinion.

"I was very attentive to all the issues proposed," Drotos said. "I just want to thank you for the very important concerns and it was very helpful in my decision."

Once the permit was approved, neighbors stood up and one member walked to the County Board desk with a list of zoning ordinances they think Goodhue County did not comply with. After doing so, they stated that a lawsuit would be filed based on the approval of Circle K farms, and the next step will be to go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

"The rules in our ordinance are clear. We're sending this to the Court of Appeals so that they can make a fair, fact-based decision," said Zumbrota Township farmer Dale Post, who lives just under a mile of the proposed feedlot.

As a plaintiff in the case, Kristi Rosenquist, who owns adjoining property, said Zumbrota Township residents have a very good case. "There's more than enough evidence that the county did not follow its own ordinance or apply it properly," she stated.

Because of this action, Circle K's permit will be suspended for the time being and the building permit will be put on hold. The case will challenge the permit as being incomplete and violating Goodhue County ordinances.

A date has not been set for a Minnesota State Court of Appeals.

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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