Recently, the Yankton County Planning commission met yet again to discuss upcoming zoning changes. The planning commissioners have met on and off many times over the past year to discuss updating our zoning ordinance. Several updates are already in the process of being approved, such as an increase in residential accessory structure sizes and combining the current subdivision ordinance into zoning ordinance as article 28.
As in the past, all planning members feel that we need to address the zoning challenges and make reasonable updates. This is particularly true in our Agricultural areas. Nearly everyone I have spoken with wants to place reasonable and safe conditions on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Our previous county commissioners also realized the need to update the zoning ordinance that is 17 +years old, however no changes were ever made.
Our biggest challenge is how to allow CAFO expansion into Yankton County in a way that is safe for all citizens. How do we allow the expansion of facilities, while protecting the land we live on, the air we breathe, and the water that we drink? How do we protect our citizens from the harmful effects? We must realize that not every location in Yankton is suitable for CAFO expansion and those areas that are suitable must be carefully selected. It is no easy task and it must involve research, facts, and compromise by all.
Unfortunately, nobody can change what has happened in Yankton County. The previous County Commission felt that it was appropriate to approve several 2400 hog barns 75 feet away from citizen’s houses. Not one person that I have spoken with thinks that was appropriate. The consequences of playing loose and fast with the rules forces us to tighten up and make CAFO applications a more streamlined and consistent process. This will provide fairness for all applicants and will provide a more predictable application path so we can all move forward.
As we continue to seek public comments on possible changes, I ask the citizens of Yankton County to please provide the input that you would like to see. Would you like a larger setback from rural residences, mandatory tree planting, or bio-filter use? Would you like road haul agreements to protect our roads and bridges from damage and to help keep our taxes low? If you are a hog producer do you want bio-security protocols to help reduce disease spread?
Additionally, one point we have heard from some agricultural producers is that they want a small number of animals in an Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) to not require a conditional use permit (CUP). Currently, our 2003 zoning ordinance requires a conditional use permit for one animal unit (1) or more. This requirement may place a burden on some small producers. The planning commission agreed and proposed an increase to 49 animal units or less (not to exceed 200 total animals) requiring no CUP. Animal units are tricky and difficult to understand. One cow is one animal unit, but a nursery hog is 0.1 animal units and a turkey is only 0.018 animal units. While most farmers would be fine with having 49 cows next to their property, many would be very concerned with living next to nearly 3000 turkeys or 490 hogs without any conditions for their safety or the neighborhood’s well being. That is why nearly all of the planning commissioners felt that it was necessary to limit the total number of animals to 200 or less. It also allows for more flexibility for those farmers and ranchers who own a variety of different animal species. If an individual desires more than 49 animal units or more than 200 total animals, they will simply apply for a conditional use permit.
It is important to remember that these changes will only affect new CAFOs. I am sure there will soon be plenty of misinformation and propaganda being spread by those who will financially or personally gain from continuing to push for more and more CAFOs. However, I invite the citizens of Yankton County to ask questions, and please stick to facts and not fabrications and half-truths. We heard earlier this year from a Mayfield resident that claimed one chicken suddenly requires a State Permit every year. Ridiculous claims like this that are clearly false don’t do anything to address the issues, and only exacerbates the situation without offering a better alternative. Let’s focus on solutions!
Our zoning ordinance belongs to everyone in Yankton County, so I humbly ask for your comments and input. If you have a better solution, please let us know! I realize that these are challenging times and we are unable to conduct large town hall meetings like we originally planned. However, the Yankton County Commission and the Yankton County Planning Commission both still offer opportunities for you to speak at public meetings in person. I will also be adding a special time on the county commission agendas for individuals to speak on zoning changes and to give us their ideas. Finally, you are welcome to call or text me at 605-857-3799 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as we truly want to hear your comments and recommendations.
I humbly thank you for allowing me to serve Yankton County.