There is little appetite among members of the Yankton County Commission to make any major changes to the 20-acre minimum lot size requirement in the county’s zoning rules.
Board members appear split on the addition of a “right to farm” clause.
Wednesday saw the board holding its third special meeting of the year to discuss proposed changes to the agricultural section (Article 5) of the county’s zoning ordinance. The meeting focused on minimum lot sizes, setbacks, CAFO sizes and right to farm. The recommendations will be sent on to the county Planning Commission for finalization and reintroduction to the County Commission in the spring or early summer.
Having spent the first two forums gathering public feedback, no public comments were to be sought during Wednesday’s meeting. However, in lieu of public feedback on the discussion, audience members were invited to make public statements on the proposals and commission direction during the first slated public comment period.
One major area that the commission focused on Wednesday was minimum lot sizes and their relation to the right to farm. Proposals have been made to reduce the minimum lot size down to two acres.
Chairwoman Cheri Loest said that lot sizes have dominated feedback she has received, along with right to farm.
“Of all the feedback I have received over the last weeks, it essentially revolves around this topic because it affects so many people,” she said. “Probably the most controversial is the right to farm. I probably got 50% of the calls that say, ‘We really support that right to farm. We think we need it. We need it to protect us — not just the animal, but the grain producers as well.’ Then the other 50% of the calls (say), ‘Don’t do it. Can’t support it. Nothing.’ It’s a tough thing.”
She made a personal recommendation of a minimum lot size of 10 acres for new residents and five acres for agri-businesses.
“They’re servicing an ag industry,” she said of the agri-business proposal. “To require them, even today, to buy 20 acres, we’re taking ag land out of production just so they can build an ag business. It seems unnecessary.”
Commissioner Don Kettering said he was a proponent of the right to farm.
“We have to protect our farmers in the rural areas from the continuous lawsuits that continue to rise,” he said.
He added that, in terms of setback discussions, commissioners would need to weigh the realities of modern farming.
“We have to think about people’s ability to raise food for the public,” he said. “If we set things back so close and tight that they can’t farm in modern-day agriculture — and I say ‘modern-day agriculture’ because, if we went back to the farms where the farmer had 20 sows and 20 milk cows, we’d have starvation all over the United States — it won’t work.”
Commissioner Dan Klimisch said that he favors keeping the minimum lot sizes as is.
“I’m in favor of keeping it at 20 acres and continuing to do the variance process,” he said. “We’ve done it for years. We never really had an issue until recently with it.”
He added that the “right to farm” clause would be unnecessary at that point.
“A good compromise of staying at the 20 acres is, for some people, it would alleviate the urgency of a ‘right to farm’ (clause),” he said. “Because that’s what we heard, ‘If you go to two acres, we want a right to farm.’ I think that’s a give and take.”
Discussions on setbacks and conditional-use permit (CUP) requirements were ongoing at press time
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