Linn County supervisors specify points for factory-farm challenge

Objections focus on manure storage and disposal plans

Steve Gravelle
Published: October 26 2012 | 10:43 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:33 am in
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Linn County will contest Matt Ditch's application for a high-density hog farm near Central City on several points, county supervisors voted this morning.

The special session was called after supervisors voted Wednesday to recommend the Department of Natural Resources reject Ditch's application for a 5,661-hog feeding operation on land owned by his parents northeast of Center Point. But the DNR can't consider the board's recommendation unless it's accompanied by specific challenges to the "master matrix" submitted by Ditch.

"I wanted to make sure Les (Beck, county planning and development director) had clear directions about what I believe our intent was," said Supervisor Linda Langston, D-Cedar Rapids, participating by phone.

Langston outlined, and the board adopted, objections to Ditch's proposal, citing its manure storage and disposal plans. The board's 4-1 vote was the same as Wednesday's, with Supervisor Brent Oleson, R-Marion, casting the dissenting vote.

Ditch's matrix scorecard claims 450 points, 10 more than the DNR's passing grade. Wally Taylor, a Cedar Rapids neighbor representing Ditch's neighbor Ron Gibson, noted the total includes 30 points for not having an environmental or worker-safety violation for the past five years.

"Thirty free points, simply because (Ditch) has not been in the business before," said Taylor.

Gibson said Ditch's application also lists Gibson's property as one of 18 manure-disposal sites.

"I swear to you that Ditch family will not do this," said Gibson, adding the application as submitted makes it impossible for him to sell his own property.

Nick Fitzgerald said the manure issues are addressed in the application's design statement and that the points for lack of environmental violations are allowable. Fitzgerald, of Ankeny, saidá he represented The Maaschhoffs, the Carlyle-Ill., based corporation for which Ditch hopes to raise hogs.

"Matt has not had any environmental infractions," said Fitzgerald. "This is for any environmental infractions, not necessarily related to a confinement."

Fitzgerald, who's not an attorney but wouldn't say what his job is, said the inclusion of Gibson's property was unintended. But Chris Behmlander, who lives about two miles from the Ditch site, said the application must be forwarded to the DNR as submitted to the county.

Beck said his staff will compile supporting materials and forward the board's challenge to the DNR by the Monday deadline.

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