Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 26, 2015

MN Appeals Court Holds County Ordinances Prohibiting New Feedlots in Urban Expansion Districts Did Not Prohibit Permit to Operate Feedlot in Joint Planning Area

Relators Tammy Loncorich and several of her neighbors challenged a conditional use permit granted to respondents Kevin and Kelsey Buss by respondent McLeod County Board of Commissioners. As pertinent to this case, the McLeod County Zoning Ordinance applied to all areas in McLeod County outside city limits; however, Hutchinson and McLeod County enacted a joint planning area agreement that gave the McLeod County Board of Commissioners the authority to regulate use of land in an area of up to two miles beyond Hutchinson city limits. The proposed feedlot was located within this two-mile area, but the parties disputed whether the proposed project is subject to the Joint Planning Ordinance or the County Ordinance that governs “Urban Expansion Districts.” This determination was critical because new feedlots are allowed as a conditional use in the former but not in “Urban Expansion Districts” established by the latter. On September 30, 2014, the county board held a meeting at which it discussed the Busses’ application, and the county board unanimously approved the permit.

Relators first contended that the permit must be vacated because the application lacked critical information about how the Busses would comply with state and local rules concerning manure management. Specifically, the court found that because the Busses’ permit application lacked the manure management plan and land spreading agreements it was incomplete. However, while an applicant must provide a manure management plan with an application for a conditional use permit for a feedlot, the ordinances do not suggest that the county board must approve that management plan when it issues the permit. Due to the lengthy testimony by the County Zoning Administrator and the Busses about manure management, and the recommendation of the McLeod County Feedlot Committee to approve the feedlot permit application, the concluded that the county board had sufficient assurances that the Busses would meet the required standards for a new feedlot. Thus, although the absence of a manure management plan may be material, the county board had sufficient information before it to consider the facts in question and to waive its requirement. 

Relators also contended that the applicable zoning ordinance was the County Ordinance, which prohibited new feedlots. However, feedlots were permitted in a Hutchinson Joint Planning Area agricultural zone, and new feedlots 2,640 feet from the City of Hutchinson were permitted so long as the operator obtained a conditional use permit. Furthermore, by its plain language, the Urban Expansion District planning boards were free to establish alternative zoning requirements for lands within the Urban Expansion District. Accordingly, the planning board’s decision was affirmed.

Loncorich v McLeod County Board of Commissioners, 868 N.W. 2d 755 (MN App. 8/17/2015)

 


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