The Clay County Board of Adjustment, made up of members of the Clay County Commission, began a public meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in the Clay County Courthouse to hear an appeal by the Living River Group, Sierra Club concerning a conditional use permit granted to Travis Mockler.

The permit would allow Mockler to expand his livestock operation from small to a medium Animal Feeding Operation (AFO).

After three-and-a-half hours, the board decided to make amendments to Mockler’s application and continue action on whether to finally approve the application at its July 30 meeting.

Board members weren’t reacting so much to the Living River Group’s appeal as they were to a lengthy statement read by board member and County Commissioner Richard Hammond that essentially states that the proposed conditional use permit to Mockler was in many instances incorrect or incomplete.

Mockler, who is chairman of the Clay County Commission, sat in the audience Tuesday. The county board of adjustment was chaired by Commissioner Phyllis Packard that morning.

The permit, if granted, would allow Mockler to expand his livestock operation near Centerville to an Animal Feeding Operation, commonly known as an AFO in the recently re-written Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) ordinance of Clay County.

The Clay County Planning Commission initially granted the conditional use permit in late March, and gave final approval to issuing the permit at a second meeting held April 29. Not long after that, the Living River Group, Sierra Club, appealed the decision.

The permit allows Mockler, whose farm is located at 30451 464th Ave., Centerville, to expand his current operation to raise up to 2,499 hogs and 500 cattle.

Shortly after the meeting had been going on for just over three hours, the board of adjustment agreed to amend Mockler’s permit to include these requirements suggested by Holland in the statement he introduced earlier in the meeting:

  • Contrary to claims by appellants, all of the map/drawing submittals displayed scale and north arrows except the excerpt from the zoning map (APO Zones A&B). That map indicates APO zone B underlies approximately 1/5 of the property proposed to host the Animal Feeding Operations. A replacement zoning map at a proper scale and clearly showing APO zone B, the Agriculture zone, the Natural Resource Conservation District, the 23 acre property designated for this conditional use, and individual existing and proposed features/structures to carry out this Conditional Use shall be drawn.
  • The floodplain map provided in the application did not identify the applicant's property location in any manner. A more appropriate localized 100 year floodplain map is attached to this document (figure 1).
  • The location, design, and size of all proposed and existing buildings associated with the feeding operation is necessary to evaluate this conditional use permit application. The Applicant shall provide scale maps/air photos showing the location and footprint of each of the structures planned, including the location of any planned and existing manure containment structures, dead animal storage areas, as well as existing or planned drainage ways originating in or traversing or traversing the planned operation. Existing and proposed structures should be located at least 144 feet (1 year flow @ .2”/hour perc test flow for Ethan soils (Soil Survey of Clay County SD, p. 337) underlying area south of existing buildings) away from sloped ground descending to the Vermillion River floodplain and tributary valleys.
  • The design and size of the proposed hoop building  and pole shed, including floor and roof design, manure containment and seepage control measures for each such structure in the production area shall be described.
  • Manure application maps should be redrawn to exclude areas of setbacks from streams and exclude other acreage not suitable or not planned for application. Though adequate acreage appears to be available, accurate application maps and typical seasonal application timing shall be specified.

The board agreed to reject these proposals offered by Hammond:

  •  It is not known if an aquifer underlies the property designated in the Proposed Conditional Use application. The Lower Vermillion Aquifer may project under adjacent bluffs at shallow depths. The applicants should provide evidence to establish that an aquifer does not exist at less than 50' below land surface (shallow aquifer definition, Clay County Zoning Ordinance) at the location of the proposed buildings.
  •  Number of animal units for each animal species is at the upper limit for a Medium AFO. Woodmansey’s (of the state DENR) letter, paragraph 2, states that the cattle operation and the swine operation would each be considered a medium AFO. Since our ordinance follows DENR animal unit guidelines, the two operations should require either two medium AFO permits or one large based upon animal unit counts.

Members of the Clay County Board of Adjustment Tuesday heard statements opposing issuance of the permit from Susanne Skyrm co-chair of the Living River Group, South Dakota Sierra Club. They also heard from Cynthia Aden, the county’s planning and zoning administrator, who spoke in favor of issuing the permit to Mockler while defending the process used to by her and the county zoning commission that led to that decision. (See related stories).


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