While the gesture was sheerly symbolic, two out of five Emmet County supervisors Tuesday voted against a matrix application for a hog confinement operation in Section 33 of Denmark Township.
New Fashion Pork, LLP, was applicant for what it termed Farm 234 or the Knutson site. Submitting letters opposing the application were Carol and Albert Swartz and Barb Houge. Jay Moore of New Fashion Pork was on hand to address any questions.
In presenting the matrix application for board approval, board chair Alan Madden said it had scored adequate points and that the site inspection was completed. Noting that Houge's letter had concerns about location, Madden said the Swartzes indicated they live a mile and a quarter east of the facility and would be downwind from a northwest wind. The Swartzes said in their letter they had lived in the same location for 58 years and their homestead would be devalued.
Madden pointed out that the county's process was to vote on measurements taken for the matrix and how points were scored. He noted nothing out of the ordinary and pointed out that the board's vote would be on whether the information represented in the matrix was accurate. If the board voted against the application and submitted it to the Iowa Environmental Commission, Madden said the EPC would look at it to see if it met the required points then send it on to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Even then, Madden noted that the applicant had the option of making corrections to the matrix.
Supervisor Jon Martyr explained why he would vote no.
"I'm going to vote against the state telling us how to do things," Martyr said, adding that he thought it was the supervisors' job to represent local residents. "I believe over time it degrades the value of their property," Martyr said of neighboring landowners.
"I think in Emmet County we've got more than enough of them here," said Madden, essentially agreeing with Martyr but that he would still vote for the application.
Moore offered to comment on the application, and when Madden said the board didn't need to hear it, Moore said he had run the Minnesota affect model on the property.
In a roll call vote, Madden, Ron Smith and Bev Juhl voted for approval of the matrix while Martyr and supervisor Tim Schumacher voted against it.
Schumacher explained his vote, saying both he and Martyr had strong feelings about the matrix process. He said there had been attempts to move away from the matrix at the supervisors table and that they had been shot down.
"I think the question has been asked at the legislative level," said Madden. He said when the question had been asked if there were enough confinements, that question was never answered.
Saying Moore was honest, Martyr was still disappointed he had not contacted the neighbors. "And I hate that," Martyr said.
Outside the meeting, Moore elaborated on his earlier comments, saying he had run the Minnesota effect model which he said is recognized by Iowa. He said closest residence is 2,158 feet away while the minimum setback from residences is 1,875 feet. Based on modeling, Moore said 96 percent of the days during the year - or 14.8 days - would be annoyance free. That scenario would be if the wind were continually blowing the same direction every day of the year.
Moore also pointed out the New Fashion Pork buys 6 million bushels of grain locally each year and that the company supports community and athletic programs.
"We are just concerned - it affects of the value of our property," said Houge. "I don't think there are any other counties in Iowa that have as much as we do."
Carol Swartz noted confinements on three other sides of their residence and just the first one had asked about coming in.