Property owners spar over potential hog buying business
A proposal to build a hog buying station is stirring hard feelings and differing opinions among property owners on Highway 251.
Leonard Grant of L&A Pork Inc. already had a feedlot permit for a property between Corning, Minn. and Highway 218, but he is now looking to partner with Lynch Livestock for a hog buying station for up to 1,200 head of hogs. On Tuesday, the county board tabled Grant’s request for a conditional use permit until the Oct. 23 meeting.
To Grant, the move is another opportunity after a previous deal with a hog operation fell through.
“It’s just a way for me to recoup some of that,” Grant said.
But to the more than six nearby home owners who attended the meeting, it’s something that would damage their property values and hurt their standard of living. They argued the buying station would bring many more semis through the area and increase traffic, not to mention the smell from the facility.
They also argued Grant didn’t handle the issue properly.
“They slipped this under the rug with us,” said Warren Smith, who lives near the proposed site.
Warren added the land is low and prone to frequent flooding, even though it’s not in the flood plain.
“Believe me: It floods, and it floods quite frequently, too,” he said.
Warren’s wife, Lanita, said a buying station is much different than a feedlot because of the traffic changes and number of animals coming in and out.
“The picture has changed drastically,” she said.
According to Lynch’s John Slavin, most of the animals at the facility would be hogs that didn’t fit the criteria to sell to Hormel Foods Corp.
“They have to maximize the production out of their buildings,” he said.
That stirred property owners’ concerns the animals would be unhealthy, and would lead to many deceased, decomposing animals on the property. Though Slavin assured them a rendering truck would pick up any deceased animals, the property owners argued rendering trucks aren’t always able to get to a farm right away. They also argued the smell would attract wildlife and disturb their pets.
“These are going to be some sickly hogs,” property owner Dennis Reimers said. “There are going to be dead animals.”
Slavin assured property owners that Lynch’s intention is to continually keep moving animals in and out of the facility.
“The ultimate goal is to be moving those pigs as quickly as possible,” Slavin said.
However, Reimers said there are many unknowns with the feedlot.
“There’s a lot of questions without answers right now,” he said.
Reimers and others asked to know how the buying station will affect property values.
However, Commissioner Jerry Reinartz, who is an appraiser, said it’s very difficult to determine if or how a hog operation would affect nearby property values. While real estate agents can offer opinions, they would not be permissible in court or in appeals.
Another question is road permitting. Since Highway 251 is a state road, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is the permitting authority. Grant has a permit for a feedlot, but Public Works Director Mike Hanson questioned whether the permit still applied with the increased traffic of a buying station.
The county board is not Grant’s lone hurdle, as Udolpho Township also requires he have 10 acres of land by the facility. He currently has five, but he said he’s working to secure additional land.
The board will make its decision on the hog buying station Oct. 23. Even if the buying station is turned down, Grant still has a permit for a feedlot.