Lansing co-op takes step ahead Plan would include rail

Published 10:39 am Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Northern Country Cooperative took a first step toward expanding its Lansing Township facility, but some Lansing residents aren’t happy about it.

The county board voted 4-0 with Commissioner Tony Bennett absent Tuesday to approve a request from Northern Country to rezone its Lansing facility as from Rural Service Center to Rural Management. That will allow Northern Country to next request a conditional use permit for various steps in the proposed expansion.

Northern Country is looking to expand its Lansing elevator with a railroad loop, additional storage, dry fertilizer and potentially anhydrous ammonia storage. If completed, the railroad loop could cost $18 to $25 million, and the co-op could load roughly 120-130-car train shipments at the site and should help them reach better markets.

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“For us to better serve our farmers, we need this expansion,” General Manager Scot Janssen said.

Janssen said North Country Co-op purchased additional land near its elevator in 2000 and has spent millions upgrading it, but he said farmers are continuing to grow with increasing yields and new technology is causing them to upgrade their space too.

“Basically we’ve kind of outgrown the area that we’re in now,” he said.

However, neighboring landowners aren’t happy about the prospects, stating the work will happen too close to Lansing and several homes, and they argued it will affect property values.

“I think there are health, safety and economic issues,” Lansing resident Paul Ebeling said.

Ebeling voiced concerns about the anhydrous ammonia after a two leaks caused homes to be evacuated and a part of Interstate 90 to be shutdown near Elkton on Monday.

Some residents voiced confusion thinking the rezoning was being done in place of a conditional use permit, but Environmental Services Director Angie Knish noted they’d need both.

“Even by rezoning this, they still have to go through that conditional use permit process and go through the public hearing,” Knish said.

However, property owner Amanda Larson voiced concerns about she and her husband’s two children and other children in town, and she said she didn’t want to see this move forward.

“This one step leads to another step and so on,” she said.

Most of the concerns voiced thus far, including decreased property values, increased truck and train traffic, dust, noise, vibrations from the work, and an increase in vermin or rodents, are things typically addressed in the permitting process and not rezoning.

“The Planning Commissioner made the recommendation because those are elements normally addressed during the conditional use permit process,” Knish said.

Despite the concerns, the Mower County Planning Commission recommended approval because Northern Country Co-op still needs to get a conditional use permit next. It’s traditionally during the permitting process that such concerns are addressed. If approved, the permits include several stipulations to prevent negative effects to neighboring property owners.

Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said he wants to learn more about the plans, and he questioned if it’d be a good fit being so close to residence, though he voted in favor of the rezoning request.

“I just have questions and concerns because it is in my district, and I know a lot of people out there,” Gabrielson said.

However, Commissioner Jerry Reinartz noted much of the concerns are ones that will come out during the permitting process, so he saw no reason to deny the rezoning request.