I was present as an active listener and Clay County resident for the Monday, March 25, 2019 Clay County Planning Commission meeting. During this meeting Travis and Jill Mockler’s conditional use permit, requesting substantial expansion to their animal feeding operation north of Vermillion, was discussed. Public input was heard.

I also read the article covering the March 25 meeting and titled “Clay County Board Approves AFO Permit” by David Lias, published in the March 29 edition of the Vermillion Plain Talk. I was impressed enough by a few meeting items not included in the article to want to share them with Clay County residents who weren’t in attendance.

First, my understanding at the meeting was that the Planning Commission’s approval was conditional, depending on the application materials’ examination by the Clay County’s State’s Attorney, who, as I understood it, had not yet seen the documentation. What conclusions were reached after the State’s Attorney’s review? Where can the public see these conclusions?

Next, to be clear, the location of the proposed expansion is north of Vermillion, directly above the Vermillion River floodplain, not near Centerville as indicated in the article.

Third, I was most interested in the concerns voiced by several attendees regarding the appearance of impropriety, specifically in light of Travis Mockler’s positions on the Clay County Commission and the Clay County Planning Commission, and with Mr. Mockler’s involvement in the revision process to the applicable Clay County CAFO ordinance, in conjunction with his application for a conditional use permit. Though he did not appear to sit as a Planning Commission member on March 25, he is a Planning Commission member, and those paying attention would be remiss if they did not question the propriety of his application under these circumstances.

Next, if I heard right, there was no actual outside/professional verification of the safety of waters of the state in regard to this application. The local expert declined to take a position on the proposal, and the South Dakota state official said he’d need more information to make an accurate determination. At the time of the meeting, that information was not available. Also, if my memory serves me correctly, Travis Mockler was revealed to be the sole provider of any and all information regarding the safety of or danger to the water supply. It seems to me that Mr. Mockler, as well as all other water-drinkers/users in Clay County, would be most interested in having an outside entity provide clear, definitive documentation to any and all elements of his proposed expansion that have any chance of adversely affecting his own water supply and the waters of his Clay County neighbors.

With these and other issues in mind, I’m wondering if the application has been satisfactorily completed, as these issues and others were not clearly addressed and documented.

For more technical information regarding the application and other specifics regarding the March 25 meeting, I refer you to David Lias’s article referenced above. It’s a good read about an issue extremely important to Clay County.

Thanks for your consideration and for the space.

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