After county denies permit for pigs, farmer unsure of next steps
County board's vote went against planning board recommendation.
OSAKIS Minn. — As a fifth generation farmer, Orry Trisco was more than disappointed when the commissioners of his county denied a conditional use permit that would have allowed him to expand the farm he owns with his father, Steven Trisco.
The family farm in central Minnesota's Douglas County has been in the Trisco family for more than a century.
Orry Trisco wanted to expand the dairy and beef farm to include swine – 2,400 pigs ranging in size from 55 to 300 pounds. His hope is to pass the farm on to his son, making it a six-generation farm.
“We just want to keep the family farm going. I don’t know why it didn’t pass,” Trisco said of the permit. “The plans were perfect, but the neighbors don’t like us.”
At a March 5 meeting, Douglas County Commissioner Jerry Rapp made the motion to deny the permit, saying it was based on the location not being compatible with the neighborhood. The vote to deny was unanimous, 5-0, despite a 4-1 recommendation from the county's planning commission.
Both the planning and county commission meetings were well attended by those who were against the farm expanding. Water quality, manure spreading, disease, health issues and air quality were some of the main concerns.
More than 40 people were at the planning commission meeting, while many others stood out in the hallway. It was the same at the county commission meeting in Alexandria, with people packed inside and outside the meeting room.
During the planning commission meeting, Kim Sjostrand from Alexandria, who with her husband, Jeff, owns land near the Trisco farm, said their dreams of building a home on that land will die if the Trisco’s farm includes that many pigs. She said there are many health concerns, along with odor and traffic concerns, and there were inadequate setbacks.
Her husband said it is a good project but in the wrong place. He had concerns about contamination of the nearby stream.
When the motion was approved by the planning commission, several angry comments were hollered out by those attending the meeting:
“You will ruin our lives.”
“Were you even listening?”
“We are your constituents.”
“What are you thinking?”
The Triscos have been planning for about a year and a half to make sure everything was perfect and that the expansion met every rule, regulation and condition from the city, county and state.
“It was an existing feedlot,” Trisco said. “It shouldn’t have been denied.”
He said he believes the commissioners were more worried about being re-elected than anything else.
Douglas County commissioners later approved a seven-page findings of facts document regarding their decision to deny the conditional use permit.
In the findings of fact, it was stated. “The applicants have failed in their burden of proof to establish the factors necessary for the granting of the conditional use permit.”
It was also stated that as the project was currently proposed, the use is not sufficiently compatible with, or separated by distance from, adjacent rural-residential land uses. The commissioners also found that the proposed use is not reasonably related to the existing land uses in that area.
It is also not consistent with the purposes of the zoning ordinance and the zoning district in which the property sits, according to the findings of fact. And lastly, the findings state that the proposed use is not consistent with the Land Use Plan of the County.
The father-son duo were modeling their swine feedlot after farms in Rice (near St. Cloud), where Trisco said it seems there are hog farms every four miles.
A company that works with hog farmers was working with the Triscos. If the permit had been approved, Orry Trisco would have been that company’s 208th farmer, he said.
He noted that the plans didn’t include breeding hogs. They would have just been raising them.
He is unsure what the next steps are for him and his father. The piece of land they were going to put the expansion on was their only option. Trisco also said he is unsure whether they will appeal the decision.