County approves permit for cattle feedlot operation

Marion County commissioners voted 3-0 Monday to follow the lead of the Planning and Zoning Commission in granting a conditional-use permit for a beef feedlot for around 3,000 animals northeast of Lincolnville near 290th and Bluestem.

The feedlot will be operated by Mike Beneke.

The decision was made despite citizen comments from Harry Bennett of Marion, who said the 7-0 zoning vote and the county commission vote could be flawed for failure to follow county zoning language. Bennett said an environmental impact statement should have been required of Beneke.

County Commission Chair?man Dan Holub said the zoning language is being changed in light of a Norton County case decision by the Kansas Supreme Court that cites the Kansas Department of Health and Environment as the ultimate agency of expertise and authority over feedlot cases.

KDHE supercedes any local attempts to add further requirements.

Bennett said the Norton County Commission had wanted to require manure lagoon liners to protect groundwater while KDHE only required packed clay.

He said time has proven the county was correct in its wishes because the groundwater has such high nitrate levels from the feedlot that it isn?t potable anymore.

Planning and Zoning Director Bobbi Strait said the court decision gave KDHE sole authority to determine the location and safety of feedlots.

?All we can do is ask for a KDHE permit,? she said. ?That?s all we can require.?

Strait noted that KDHE regulations in the Beneke case covered such things as sewage lagoons and lining, rechanneling a stream and dead-animal disposal.

She said the state agency has the scientists and engineers to determine water flows and health regulations on the subject while a county does not.

?It?s beyond my training,? Strait said. ?I have to rely on KDHE.?

Bennett said that as a land owner, he wants to know that the land practices in the area surrounding him will remain such as to allow him continuing peace in operating his own property.

He said zoning rules should give assurance that if a conditional-use is allowed, it should be abated in such a way as to allow him stable use of his own land.

Bennett questioned whether Beneke had been allowed to operate a feedlot requiring KDHE approval while fulfilling KDHE requirements for as long as three years. He said environmental concerns shouldn?t be compromised while awaiting KDHE permitting.

Holub said Beneke?s pens had been empty while he did KDHE construction requirements for a commercial feedlot. Farmers who feed under 1,000 animal units don?t have the same requirements, he said.

Bennett said there was a sense to the zoning hearing that Beneke had ?been discovered? in expanded feedlot operation in 2006, and that it has taken three years for KDHE to determine requirements.

He said a feedlot operator can be required only to empty problem pens while compliance procedures are ongoing.

Bennett said a zoning commission member had cited the economic benefit of Beneke?s feedlot as a reason for approval. He said environmental concerns should be the deciding factor in changing land use, and economics shouldn?t enter in.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said the county must give Beneke temporary approval pending final KDHE approval, and shouldn?t keep him waiting.

Commissioner Bob Hein said the Planning and Zoning members are appointed to investigate all the reasons to grant or not grant conditional use, and the county commission should respect their decisions.

?That?s why we have them there,? Hein said.

Rollin Schmidt, noxious weed and household hazardous waste director, said the spring mobile pickup schedule for household hazardous waste was to be from 9 to 11 a.m. April 10 at Florence, April 18 at Durham, and April 25 at Burns, then from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 18 at Tampa, and from 9 a.m. to noon May 16 at Peabody and June 13 at Goessel.

Emergency Medical Services Director Steve Smith reported 82 ambulance runs for March, including 16 from Peabody, eight from Florence, three for back-up, 19 from Marion, 32 from Hillsboro and four from Tampa.

There were 10 first-response runs: one from Burns, seven from Goessel, one from Durham and one from Lincolnville.

There were seven rescue truck runs, all from Marion.

Smith said his department is working on policy and procedure for grain elevator and school bus accidents.

Smith will teach an American Heart Association heart-saver CPR, first aid and AED class to county employees June 16, 18 and 23. EMT-B students will take practical tests at St. Francis May 9.

Smith is working with Elaine Ewert to schedule a Marion city-wide CPR class.

The commissioners approved $1,450 for consultation with the Austin Turner group for development of such standard documents as pay plans and job documents until the county has background to do it itself.

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