Opposition surplus forces tabling of Lincoln County dairy plant permit
Nine residents and township officials spoke for 54 minutes against the immediate approval of a conditional use permit for a milk condensing plant northwest of Beresford, forcing a table of the vote.
CANTON, S.D. — The Lincoln County Commission was forced to table their vote on a permit for a proposed milk condensing plant after a swarm of public commentary caused the meeting to overlap with another public meeting.
Nine residents consumed roughly 54 minutes of time at the Lincoln County Commission’s meeting on Tuesday, April 25, speaking in opposition of the approval of the current form of a conditional use permit for a milk condensing plant in southwestern Lincoln County.
The period of public comment lasted so long that the commission was forced to adjourn without a vote on the issue at 10:07 a.m. — seven minutes after a regular meeting of the Board of Equalization was set to begin.
The discussion came before the county commission as the result of an appeal of the planning and zoning commission’s unanimous March 20 vote to approve a conditional use permit for Mikota Holding’s proposed construction of a milk condensing plant in the 29000 block of 468th Street in rural Centerville.
According to Tim den Dulk, head of Mikota Holdings, the condensing plant would process raw milk from nearby Dakota Plains and Mount Hope dairies and separate water, cream and skim before passing it through a series of filters. The end product results in roughly 30% less volume to the product, and the separated water would be reused at the dairies, which den Dulk and his son, Tim Jr., also own.
Toby Brown, county planning director, said the latest plans for the facility call for a 47,000 square-foot, 31-foot tall structure with multiple silos reaching as high as 88 feet.
During Tuesday’s public hearing, appellant Bethany Erck, who lives roughly half-a-mile south of the proposed plant, approached the commission with 95 signatures of nearby residents who opposed the decision, as well as solutions that she said could win back the favor of some residents.
The letter reads:
“I do not want a milk condensing facility in our area. I oppose it to protect myself, my family and my neighbors from hazards to health, safety and enjoyment of rightfully owned property. I’m concerned about light, odor, water and air pollution that this facility will create now, as well as the cumulative impact in the future. I’m concerned about increased traffic and degradation of roads in our county and township, property value degradation, environmental cleanup costs and the overall reduction of the quality of life of residents. Please deny this permit, and if that cannot happen, set reasonable conditions to protect your citizens from the negative impacts as described above.”
Arguably the most passionate discourse came from Brooklyn Township officials Steve Holmberg and Duane Carlson, who said Mikota Holdings and their contractors had severely damaged township roads on multiple occasions and even violated South Dakota law with their conduct.
“We oppose the conditional use permit … The reason Brooklyn Township opposes this permit is because of problems that we’ve had with the den Dulk facilities in the past,” Holmberg said. “We’re talking about roads here again, they were cutting silage in preparation for the dairy coming. On the day in question, it rained an inch-and-a-half in the a.m., and in the afternoon they were out cutting silage and cutting deep trenches in our roads.”
Holmberg said in this instance, the trenches were approximately 10 inches deep, and that “huge chunks of mud” from the field had been dragged into the roadway as well.
“They took it upon themselves to come back and push that mud into our township ditches and then placed some poor-quality sandy gravel in the tracks. I was called by a local resident telling me that he’d almost had an accident,” he recalled. “I drove over to look at the road and saw that they’d try to fix it. I then called Tim den Dulk Jr. and told him this is not acceptable.”
If someone were to have been injured in a crash, Holmberg said, the township would be liable. Thus, Holmberg said the township must be in charge of repairing roads.
Beyond that example, Carlson shared with the commission a series of photos depicting bent stop signs, imprinted on right-of-ways, entrenched roads, damaged culverts and used a box scraper on a township road without permission. He said in the fall of 2019, as many as 60 loads of manure were taken down a road in one day without notification, causing the same impact as tens of thousands of cars would.
“When asked about this and when talked to about it, they referred us to their contractors, and not taking responsibility for themselves,” Carlson said, “but if they contract the hauling, the manure management and the harvesting, they should be held accountable for all of this.”
Another significant issue, Carlson said, was a semi-truck and trailer that was caught by a citizen hauling a tower of some sort over a county bridge, which Carlson said was a violation of load limits.
Holmberg added that in October 2021, he was asked by the den Dulks if a contractor could install a culvert on a township road. After informing the den Dulks the work would require a permit and other approvals, Holmberg drove to the site of the proposed culvert to find the contractor had already installed it.
Holmberg said the work is believed to have been completed in violation of South Dakota law, which outlines some of the processes by which culvert installations can be completed.
“I’m very concerned that there will be a tragic accident — only the Lord knows why there hasn’t been one or more up to this point. Several people have told me about near misses and accidents,” Holmberg said. “… If you’re wondering why Brooklyn Township is a little skeptical of some of these things these people are doing, that’s why. I don’t feel that the den Dulks and their operations have been truthful to Brooklyn Township or the citizens and the community.”
During the March 20 meeting of the planning and zoning commission, Holmberg spoke to express his desire for more cooperation and communication between Mikota Holdings and Brooklyn Township before the conditional use permit was approved. When asked if the township has met with the den Dulks since, Holmberg said a meeting has not yet been arranged.
Concerns about Brooklyn Township’s roads occupied the vast majority of Tuesday’s commission meeting, with multiple other residents echoing the concerns of Holmberg and Carlson.
Paul Kostboth, who spoke on behalf of the den Dulk family, said the den Dulks had committed to sitting down with the township to discuss road agreements, and that the family would be happy to uphold that commitment to working out challenges with road conditions.
He added that the condensing plant would actually reduce truck traffic on township roads from roughly 14 trucks per day to five-and-a-half, though den Dulk acknowledged in March those figures could increase, as the plant would operate at about half-capacity at its launch.
Den Dulk, who attended via phone, did not speak on his own behalf at Tuesday’s meeting, as commissioners abruptly halted the commentary period shortly before 10 a.m.
With urgency to vacate the county’s meeting room for the other previously-scheduled meeting, the commission voted unanimously to resume hearing commentary at its next meeting on May 9.