HJ/EDApril 17, 2006

Farming, lake interests clash at meeting

By John Holler

With the encroachment of housing and industry on areas that were agricultural land for more than a century, a new set of problems has emerged from that convergence.

At the April 4 meeting of the Wright County Board, those opposing factions came together at a public hearing.

The hearing, itself, was to request a variance to the county’s feedlot ordinance concerning the placement of a cattle barn within 100 feet of a township road in Marysville Township. But it quickly diverted to concerns of surrounding area residents over what sits in the opposite of direction of Gowan Avenue (the township road in question). On the other side of the farm is 12-Mile Creek, which flows directly into Little Waverly Lake.

Several residents spoke up at the public hearing opposing an increase in the number of cattle on a 53-acre parcel owned by Roy Marschall, and operated by Marschall and his son-in-law Harlan Poppler.

Among the opponents to the planned approval was Little Waverly Lake resident Greg Sain, who stated that the property already pollutes the lake.

He cited phosphorous readings that increase nearly three times that of Lake Ann – a horribly polluted lake that had an almost complete fish kill several years ago – every time it rains.

Others expressed concerns that the 53-acre parcel can’t handle the 300 head of cows it currently has, much less giving the opportunity for more to be put in the improved barn.

Poppler defended his operation of the farm, saying he has two small children and wouldn’t allow them to remain on the property if he was convinced there were health risks.

He added that the change being planned was to replace an open-ended Quonset hut with an enclosed permanent structure that would reduce the potential for any contact between animal waste and the outside ground surface.

After nearly an hour of back and forth arguing, Planning and Zoning Administrator Tom Salkowski reminded the board that the request had nothing to do with the proximity to 12-Mile Creek, but instead was concerning replacing an existing structure that is closer than the required setback to a township road.

Before taking a vote, Commissioner Pat Sawatzke summed up the feelings of most of the commissioners, saying, “While I understand the concerns of the local residents about potential water contamination, the proposed barn being requested would actually make the situation safer than what it is now. It won’t cure the problems that exist on Little Waverly Lake, but in my opinion, it will make the situation better that is currently is.”

The board approved the variance for the new barn by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Dick Mattson, who had asked why the building couldn’t be moved to a different location on the property, farther away from the creek, voted against approval.

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