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Pushback halts Preservation of Farming Practices amendment

Beth Slocum of Vasa speaks Tuesday, May 8, 2018, against a proposed change to Goodhue County Article 11 - Performance Standards, Section 24 – Preservation of Farming Practices. She said Circle K Farms wants the change the rules to end "nuisance" claims. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia

More than 30 residents attended a Goodhue County Board meeting on May 8 and their impassioned views on local farm rules carried the day.

A discussion and hearing — the third agenda item — about a proposed language amendment to the Goodhue County Zoning Ordinance Article 11, Section 24 — Preservation of Farming Practices exceeded two hours. The request came from Circle "K" Farms (Michael, Yon and Jeff Kohlnhofer).

The Kohlnhofers' lawyer addressed the request for change, and then County Attorney Steve Betcher explained edits made to the Kohlnhofers' original request. Land-use Management Director Lisa Hanni also spoke.

The "vote no" attendees argued that the proposed changes would limit citizens' ability to constitute certain farming behaviors as "a nuisance" for the purpose of legal action and county intervention.

Vasa Township farmer Beth Slocum was one of numerous attendees who spoke against the proposal.

"A lot of Goodhue folks have thought and talked and listened and written about the proposed ordinance changes. I know you have plenty to think about," she said. "I hope you will decide to keep our current language in the ordinance because it's clear and logical and it has never interfered with encouraging agricultural operations in the county," she said.

Ultimately, the board voted 4-1 to dismiss the amendment request, with Chairman Jason Majerus dissenting. He kept tight control of the meeting, holding speakers to their three-minute limit despite some citizens calling him out for perceived bias toward the Kohlnhofers.

Following the vote, Commissioner Paul Drotos said, "These issues are critical and if we don't understand them, then we should not move forward until we understand them completely."