Appeal prompts county review of permit for milk condensing plant near Beresford
Residents and township officials aired a laundry list of complaints and concerns about the proposed plant in Delaware Township.
CANTON — The Lincoln County Commission will hold a public hearing and review of a proposed milk condensing plant near Beresford after a resident in opposition formally appealed the approval of a conditional use permit.
The controversy surrounds a conditional use approved by the county’s planning board during its March 20 regular meeting, permitting Michigan-based Mikota Holdings to operate a 48,000 square-foot milk condensing plant on a 60-acre plot of land roughly 6 miles northwest of Beresford in Delaware Township.
According to Tim den Dulk, head of Mikota Holdings, the condensing plant would process raw milk from nearby Dakota Plains and Mt. Hope dairies and separate water, cream and skim before passing it through a series of filters. The end product results in roughly 30% less volume to the product, and the separated water would be reused at the dairies, which den Dulk and his son, Tim Jr., also own.
Den Dulk told the planning board that by having a condensing plant near the two dairies, it would cut truck traffic by up to 60% on the roads in Delaware Township, as it would cut out an additional trip for the milk to head to another processor before making it to buyers. He added that a Mikota plant would create 15 jobs and reduce emissions.
While members of the planning board made an early indication that they were in favor of the plant, nearby residents used the March 20 meeting to air their complaints against Mikota.
Bethany Erck, of rural Centerville, alleged that Mikota has already broken promises made under conditional use permits for the dairies, and shared her concerns of what might happen if the plant were to be approved.
“Before you approve this conditional use permit, I’d like you to hold their feet to the fire on some of the promises that have been made to this county. We have not seen those promises to be held true,” Erck said.
Living less than a mile away from the dairies, Erck said she’s been awoken at “all hours” of the night due to noise levels from the dairy, despite a promise that the dairy would produce no noise. She also claimed Mikota has broken promises regarding smells from the dairies.
“I want to be a good neighbor, but they have to be good neighbors to us. I just would like to have the protections that are due to me as a landowner. While the allure of corporate ag is enticing, we see big dollars ... what we don't see is my quality of life right there next door to them,” Erck said. “I’m concerned about giving them additional permits when I can’t see — and can't logically say — that they've fulfilled their obligation to our community.”
Beyond her allegations of Mikota’s past conduct, Erck questioned whether the milk condensing plant would actually qualify for agricultural zoning.
“Forty-eight thousand square feet. That’s what’s indicated. That’s larger than light industrial and general industrial in our county zoning ordinance,” Erck said. “Are we sure this should be ag? Looking at the traffic and the sheer size, are we positive this should be out in a rural area?”
Her question led to discussion from the planning board, who ultimately determined agricultural zoning is appropriate. A staff report prepared by the county’s planning and zoning department, however, found that the area around the proposed plant is “predominantly agricultural and used for agricultural purposes,” adding that the proposal is “compatible in terms of the zoning standards with the surrounding properties.”
Townships: 'We are very concerned'
The March 20 meeting in Canton was held on the same day as officials from Delaware and neighboring Brooklyn townships were set to have their own meetings on different topics. Brooklyn Township Chairman Steve Holmberg, however, was able to make the half-hour drive to Canton to speak on the proposal.
“It was difficult for me to get here this evening so we could have a quorum at our meeting [in Brooklyn Township], but I would echo the concerns that Bethany has. As a township, we are very concerned about the traffic on roads,” Holmberg said. “I know that this facility is not in our township, but there's a good amount of traffic that takes place in our township for parts of their operation already.”
While outlining the proposed plant’s operations, den Dulk noted that the plant would be processing about 15 “loads” of milk each day. Though he said there’s no plans in place to handle more product, he said it could handle up to 40.
“Them stating there would be less traffic because of the condensation of this milk product, but then on the other hand stating there could be 40 loads of capacity that they could come up to is very concerning for Brooklyn Township,” Holmberg said. “I think this needs to be talked about before you approve permits or conditional use permits. This needs to be brought to [the township] and talk to us, also, so we can have our input before you approve these.”
Before discussion was opened, Lincoln County Planning and Zoning Director Toby Brown had made an addendum to the terms of the permit requiring Mikota to hold an annual meeting with Brooklyn and Delaware Township representatives to exchange concerns. Holmberg approved of the idea, but asked for the planning board to hold off on approving the permit pending more discussion with township officials.
“This all has to be worked out before that time, not after you’ve already approved it. … I would ask that you at least not approve anything at this time without more information — have some sort of studies done to find out what really is going to take place,” Holmberg said. “Then talk to the different townships around them and see if they have any other input on it also.”
Dana Knudson, the only member of Delaware Township’s board to speak, said that although he’s new to his position, he echoes the concerns that Holmberg shared and asked the planning board to table the permit for further discussion.
Despite the input of Erck, Holmberg, Knudson and one other Delaware Township resident, the planning board voted unanimously to approve the conditional use permit for Mikota.
Erck has submitted an appeal of the conditional use permit to the Lincoln County Commission, who will hold a public hearing on the topic during its April 25 meeting. The Tuesday meeting, which is set to begin at 8:30 a.m., will be held in the Lincoln County Courthouse and is open to the public.