Eden Lake Township forms task force on building ordinances

This article submitted by Steve Swenson, EV-W Journal-Patriot on 3/24/98.

Most months, the meetings of the Eden Lake Township board could be conducted around one of the five board memberís kitchen table.

An average-size kitchen would be big enough to hold everybody that wished to attend.

Not so lately.

A hog facility that is being planned by local farmer Ken Gruenes to be set up between Eden Valley and Richmond has created enough interest lately to pack the townshipís meeting room in Eden Valley. The last couple of meetings have been lively and, at times, heated.

At issue is the 500-unit hog facility being planned by Gruenes. Five hundred animal units translates to about 2,000 hogs, which has got some of Gruenesí Eden Lake Township neighbors; many of them cabin and lake home owners on Rice, Browns and Deep Lakes; thinking about things like manure runoff and odor.

About 75 of those neighbors have signed a petition asking the state to assess the impact the proposed facility would have on the area. They also complained that they were not notified within 10 days of Gruenesí applying to the state for a permit to operate the feedlot.

Members of the stateís Environmental Quality Board, as well as staff from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the state Attorney Generalís office have scheduled a meeting to discuss the validity of the certificate of compliance earlier granted Gruenes by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Gruenes is still waiting for approval to break ground on the facility.

For its part, the Eden Lake Township Board has made steps to head off confrontation like this in the future.

A task force consisting of five local farmers, five home owners, and members of the township planning and zoning board was put together at the last township meeting with an eye toward drafting some sort of building ordinance that would appease all of the property owners in the township.

ďThe way I see it, the main purpose of a planning and zoning board is protecting property values,Ē said Bob Latcham, a home owner on Browns Lake who has been named to the task force.

Latcham said the task force has committed to meeting for an hour every Tuesday night until the farmers in the group get involved in fieldwork. The group met for the first time last Tuesday.

ďWe were concerned that it was going to be the farmers versus the lakers,Ē Latcham said, but added that the first meeting was conducted with level heads and some progress was made.

Latcham described the meetings as brainstorming sessions, adding that the group hopes to get all of its ideas out in the open and it will be the job of the planning and zoning board to draft the ideas that seem to work into an ordinance it can present to the township board.

The group is concentrating on three main areas it would like to see resolved, including: the notification process; the issue of runoff and potential groundwater contamination; and the issue of odor and the potential for hazardous substances riding the winds.

Latcham said the task force that has been set up has nothing to do with the Ken Gruenes feedlot issue. Its job is to try to head off any future conflicts in the Eden Lake Township neighborhood.

It is expected that the concerns area residents have with the proposed Gruenes hog facility will be discussed at the next township board meeting at the Eden Valley Fire Hall meeting room on Tuesday, March 31, at 8:30 p.m.

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