Foster County Commission approves dairy permit
CARRINGTON -- The Foster County Commission voted Tuesday to approve Corne and Connie Van Bedaf's permit to build a maximum 1,500 cow dairy farm three miles southeast of Carrington.
More than 100 people in the audience broke into loud cheers and applause when the decision was made.
The Foster County Zoning and Planning Board had recommended that the commission reject the permit because of opposition from a group that called itself "Stink Free Carrington." At a Feb. 26 public hearing, Ted Keller, spokesman for the group, claimed the smell of the dairy would permeate Carrington, ruining the quality of life and lowering property values. Shane K. Kjellberg, president of K2S Engineering -- the firm that produced the engineering study for the Van Bedafs -- provided information contradicting Keller's claim and showing that all legal requirements for the dairy had been met.
The commissioners' decision to reject the recommendation of the board was based on an opinion from State's Attorney Paul Murphy. Murphy had been asked whether the county could deny the Van Bedafs' permit when they had met all the requirements and regulations of the zoning ordinances. He asked the North Dakota Attorney General for an opinion, but was told it would be three months before Carrington had an answer -- well beyond the timeline for the commission to make a decision. Searching pertinent laws, Murphy said it was clear that the commission was not to make rulings that were "capricious and arbitrary," and in the case of the dairy, all county permit requirements and zoning ordinances have been met.
"It's my opinion that, if we list standards and we don't follow them, it will be seen as an arbitrary decision by the court," Murphy said. "If the court decides that what this commission does is arbitrary, they will overturn it."
Murphy had also been asked if the commission could dissolve the zoning board and let all decisions be made by the townships. He said the county could give authority back to the townships, but the townships abdicated their authority to the county in the 1970s. To give that authority back to the townships would be trading one set of problems for another, he said.
Murphy also addressed a question of whether Commissioner Jim Carr had a conflict of interest on the is-sue. Carr had agreed to take some of the manure from the proposed dairy to fertilize his fields. Murphy said it was a gray area, but he believed Carr could vote if needed to break a tie in the three-man commission.
"I'll stand up for Jim to do the right thing," Murphy said.
Carr abstained from voting, and Commissioners Dwayne Erickson and LeRoy Hart voted to approve the permit.
Following the meeting, Carrington Mayor Don Frye said he wasn't surprised at the amount of support dis-played for the Van Bedaf dairy. He said following the public hearing, he received many calls in favor of the permit.
"As you know, the silent majority doesn't usually say much," he said.
Frye estimated more than 90 percent of the Carrington population was in favor of the dairy, and a group of residents who gathered outside the courthouse agreed.
Travis Carr, a Carrington resident, said only half a dozen people in Carrington were opposed to the dairy. The rest saw it as an opportunity for economic development.
Resident Jamie Clifton agreed.
"Who in their right mind would turn down 20 new jobs in the community?" he said.
Asked if people would be willing to take those jobs, several in the group said they already new of people who planned to apply.
In a telephone interview from his family's home in Alberta, Canada, Corne Van Bedaf said he was happy about the decision of the commission, but he will wait a couple of days before moving forward with plans for the dairy.
"We don't know what those people are going to do that were against it," he said. "We don't know how ag-gressive they will be."
Following the meeting, Keller printed "It's a done deal," on the Stink Free Carrington Web site, www.stinkfreecarrington.com.
"Those are the people we elected, and they made their decision," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, our leaders have spoken."
However, Keller said those in opposition were never a formal group. He didn't know if any of the others who were opposed to the project would want to continue to fight the dairy.
"We don't know if there's going to be another round at this point," he said. "We haven't had a chance to review our options."
Murphy said he heard comments that the opposition might continue to fight the dairy.
"They can oppose it at the Health Department level," he said, or they could sue if they can find a loophole in the proceedings.
"I can sue anyone for anything," he said, but without a case, the suit will go nowhere.
If the Van Bedafs decide to continue with their plans for the dairy, Frye said the next step is for the North Dakota Department of Health to review the entire application and the engineering report. He said that procedure generally takes around 45 days. Frye said he's optimistic and hopeful that the dairy will now become a reality for Carrington.
"It's about putting people back on the land and making it productive," he said.
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