Zoning board approves Norway Pork Operation, LLC conditional use permit

Dawn Rye | Writer

During last week’s Turner County planning and zoning meeting, a motion was made to approve the conditional use permit for a large swine farrowing facility for Norway Pork Operation LLC. With the permit’s approval, Steve and Ethan Schmeichel were required to adopt the county’s maintenance road haul agreement with the township. 

Zoning Administrator Faye Dubbelde explained the swine farrowing facility sits on approximately 25 acres located in the northwest part of Norway Township. She said the facility that operates with the state’s general permit was already approved. Dubbedle noted the board’s application had detailed information about why they meet the criteria in the ordinances. She said after working on the animal unit numbers, they do meet the setback requirements.

Attorney Brian Donahue explained he represents the Schmeichel family and the reason for the application is because a previous permit was subject to an appeal. He said this project is the same site, same facility and meets the exact requirements. He told the board to ignore the previous permit because they reused the materials previously presented during the first permit process. Donahue explained they are proposing to the board to allow Norway Pork Op LLC. The application uses the same nutrient management plan, the same setback plan and facilities descriptions because those items have not changed. He said there would be six buildings from farrowing to a finishing operation. Donahue noted there would be 5,400 sows and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) has approved the facility for a large animal feeding operation. He said all conditional use permits are considered under the statute that governs counties throughout the state. 

Ethan commented the ground has been in the Schmeichel family for the past 60 years. Ethan said the family had been part of the community and they don’t plan on leaving. He noted that this project benefits would help families, including his and would allow the younger generation farmers to come back and get hogs locally. 

Attorney Jeff Powers explained Norway Pork Op LLC had not calculated the setbacks for this size of a facility. He said according to the ordinances, there are three pig facilities listed. Powers noted the number of sows proposed by the facility closely resembles a farrow to finish facility. He said the ownership is an LLC and it’s not clear of all the members. He noted the board needs to be aware of all the owner’s violations to perform their duties on this project. He explained that Vicki Reasonover hired experts out of Canada in regards to her concerns over her dwelling. Powers said the company anticipates 72.4 percent of the days experience odors and an appraiser believes there would be a $48,000 loss on the property. 

He provided evidence from an annual report from Norway Pork Op LLC obtained from the state website. He said the principal address is located in Iowa and a managing member with a Nebraska address. Powers commented this information goes back to the LLC member and who will be running the operation.

“I bring this up because there are strong concerns with my folks that ultimately this is basically going to be out of state financial interest benefiting greatly by dumping their pig manure in Turner County. And determent Turner County residents,” said Powers. 

Donahue explained the affidavits provided by experts that come up with some odor measurements are not consistent with common sense. He said the Supreme Court reversed the decision that threw those expert opinions out. Donahue commented the board does have the authority to grant the permit because it meets the requirements. He noted the residents that do live in Turner County are protected and the zoning ordinances don’t give the board unlimited discretion.

Co-Chairman Mick Miller said the previous permit is a non-issue during this proceeding. He noted it was a granted permit that is still in the appeal process. 

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