Faribault Co. works to sort out permit issue

BLUE EARTH — Faribault County commissioners on Tuesday had to try to figure out which is the responsible governmental unit in regard to a conditional use permit to build a swine confinement facility in Section 25 of Jo Daviess Township.

Loria Rebuffoni, Planning and Zoning administrator, said the county’s first order of business is to determine the need for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet.

The formal recommendation from Rebuffoni was to remand the conditional use permit back to the Planning Commission for further evaluation, and to provide a more factual basis through recommendation. That recommendation would advance to the Nov. 20 county board meeting for a final decision.

The county had other options, as well, including contingently approving the permit pending approval of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency state permit, deny the permit based on county board decisions or table a decision until Nov. 20, when the board can approve or deny the permit.

However, before the board could do that, it had to determine the responsible governmental unit, due to a flub.

On Oct. 22, the state Environmental Quality Board issued a letter to Faribault County regarding the petition for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet for the “Larry Twedt 3,020 Head Swine Finishing Barn Project” and informed the county that it is the responsible governmental unit to decide the need for a worksheet.

Upon further research, it was determined the project is exempt from a worksheet because it involves fewer than 1,000 animal units.

With Pollution Control Agency representative Steven Schmidt and Reba Van Beusekom present Tuesday, it was found that through a designation error by the Environmental Quality Board, the Pollution Control Agency should have been the responsible governmental unit regarding the conditional use permit, not Faribault County.

“If we are not the RGU, we need to send this back,” said Commissioner Tom Loveall.

“I don’t want an agency in the Twin Cities dealing with this; we are here, and we should be deciding this,” argued Commissioner Tom Warmka.

“The MPCA is responsible governmental unit; we would be issuing the permit,” Schmidt told the board. “The pig lot is at a size where it is tripping federal rules, but not state rules. They meet the federal rules, but are not meeting state rules as a gap site. Those sites have to be permitted by the state.”

“So you will be the feedlot permit body?” Warmka asked Schmidt, who responded, “Yes.”

“We cannot compound our errors, this needs to be followed by the law,” was Loveall’s addition to the conversation.

He made a motion to decline the responsible governmental unit and resubmit the permit, with a second made by Bill Groskreutz.

Though there was a second, the motion was not passed, at the suggestion of Rebuffoni.

“I would suggest you table this until the Nov. 20 meeting,” she said.

Commissioners ratified the suggestion.

In other business, the board heard from the Faribault County Sheriff’s Department, which requested approval to purchase three Ford Police Interceptor SUVs from Morrow Brothers Ford in Glenfield, Ill., for the quoted price of $91,450.