The Yankton County Planning Commission went right to work with its newly granted zoning enforcement powers Friday.
On Tuesday — with a dedicated zoning director yet to be seated — the Yankton County Commission granted the Planning Commission the power to uphold zoning enforcement.
On Friday, that board held a special meeting to address CAFO permits belonging to four producers — Jay Cutts, Josh Johnson, Karl Schenk and John Gunderson. The enforcement actions were brought about after the county was notified that major construction had not commenced within 180 days of issuance of the permit as is required by statute. In the Johnson and Cutts cases, each had a building permit and the accompanying conditional-use permit (CUP) canceled. An additional work injunction was also issued against the Cutts CAFO as he has allegedly continued work out of compliance on the structure.
Commissioner Joe Healy, who recused himself from the discussion on the Gunderson permit(s), noted that the actions the board had taken were not the type usually done before the public.
“This isn’t a hearing,” Healy said. “We are simply acting as the zoning administrator, but because of our body form, we have to do it in a public setting. A media notice goes out, but this isn’t a hearing. … We can ask for input, gather information and what-not, but in section 23, the zoning administrator can simply review a request for enforcement and render a decision. There’s nothing that says you have to have the alleged violator come in and present their case before you.”
In each case, the time limit had been reached during the summer.
Healy said that each permit holder had been notified that they were past a building date.
“All of the other permit holders received letters and actually had meetings with Mr. (Brian) McGinnis and presented their sides of the case,” he said. “Some had receipts and some had photos. Everybody has been informed and acknowledged that they are aware of what’s going on, they’ve presented their side of it and were basically awaiting a decision.”
It was later noted that the permit holders had been informed of the special meeting as well. While a small audience had appeared at Friday’s meeting, the permit holders were not among them.
Commissioner Dan Klimisch said that ample recourse had also been made available to all parties.
“We need to treat all building permits the same,” he said. “There was a path forward — come in and request to get an extension. We all voted for that; these guys chose not to do that. What choice do we have?”
However, some on the board were skeptical.
“In this day and age, you’re probably eight months to nine months on building supplies arriving when you’re doing the kind of building like this,” Commissioner Dennis Michael said. “We didn’t have an active zoning administrator to follow up on this, which has happened in a lot of situations other than these pig farms in the county. … Between the weather conditions and lawsuits against them, there was a big roadblock on both sides.”
Commissioner Zane Williamson stated that he didn’t feel that it was the Planning Commission’s place to cancel the permits. He and Michael both abstained from voting on the Cutts and Johnson permit decisions.
Commissioners were in the process of reviewing one of two permits issued to Karl Schenk but hadn’t made a decision before press time.
Commissioner Michael Welch was absent from Friday’s meeting.
Editor’s Note: Due to meeting length and deadline constraints, the Press & Dakotan was unable to report on any actions taken on two of the four review topics Friday night. These will be addressed in a follow-up article.
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