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Opponents of proposed pork processing plant in Sioux Falls file lawsuit to stop construction

Smart Growth Sioux Falls argues that state law prohibits the city from permitting any construction until after a November vote on whether to ban slaughterhouses. Wholestone Farms is building a small butchery on the site and contend that grandfather's them under current ordinances.

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Construction at the site of the Wholestone Farms pork processing plant at Interstate 229 and Benson Road in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Patrick Lalley / Forum News Service
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Opponents of a planned pork processing plant in northeast Sioux Falls are asking a judge to stop the city from issuing any new permits, and withdrawing any existing ones, related to small custom butchery on the site.

Smart Growth Sioux Falls filed for an injunction in Minnehaha County saying issuing more permits to Wholestone Farms before the Nov. 8 election violates state law and potentially thwarts the will of the citizens.

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Former U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson is currently a Sioux Falls lawyer with the firm Robins Kaplan.
Contributed

“We think Wholestone is undermining the law and ignoring the will of the people — and, unfortunately, the city of Sioux Falls is complicit,” the group’s lawyer Brendan Johnson said in a statement. “We believe the law bars the city from preempting the ballot measure and effectively prohibits Wholestone from proceeding until the matter is decided by voters.”

The group gathered signatures to put the issue on the ballot. If passed the initiated measure would ban any future slaughterhouses within the city limits. In the court filing, they argue that state law prohibits any government body from taking action “that would alter or preempt the effect of the petition.”

Therefore, the permits that were issued for the butcher shop weren’t legal. Their complaint states: “The City did not have discretion to issue any permits or take any action that would alter or preempt the effect of the Initiative. Because the City was prohibited by statute from taking any action that could have the effect of preempting the Initiative, the law compels the City to withdraw or cancel the improperly issued permits.”

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Wholestone Farms, a cooperative based in Fremont, Nebraska, plans to build a plant near the Benson Road exit on Interstate 229. The facility would eventually process up to 6 million pigs per year.

Smart Growth and their backers say the city doesn’t need an additional pork plant in the city, citing the potential for odor, pollution and traffic problems.

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Luke Minion, chairman of the board of Wholestone Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative planning to build a pork processing plant in Sioux Falls.
Contributed

Luke Minion, chairman of the board for Wholestone, said the opponents ignore the reality that the cooperative has been working with state and local governments for more than four years.

“Wholestone has and is following all rules, regulations, and processes put in place by voters over decades,” Minion said in a statement. “Smart Growth Sioux Falls jeopardizes all future business development in our community if their initiative is approved.”

The new plant would add additional slaughtering capacity to the area, a much-sought after goal of regional pork producers. The city’s current pork processor, Smithfield, operates from a facility that first opened in 1911 near just north of downtown and slaughters about 18 million head per year.

Wholestone points out that the image of Smithfield’s aging building is not the reality of a modern plant. They contend that technology allows for a high level of odor control and the plans call for a stand-alone water treatment plant on the site.

The lawsuit lists a number of state and local permits that Smarth Growth beleives Wholestone has yet obtain. The document is available here.
The complaint was filed Thursday, Sept. 8. It’s not immediately clear when the complaint will be decided by a judge.

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for the Forum News Service in Sioux Falls. Reach him at plalley@forumcomm.com.
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