July 3, 2006
New limits for hobby farms and manure application in Wright County
By Ivan Raconteur
Recent feedlot and zoning ordinance changes in Wright County include new restrictions on hobby farms, feedlots, and manure application, according to Feedlot Administrator Tracy Janikula of the Wright County Planning and Zoning Department.
Janikula said that the changes were implemented to clear up some confusion in the existing ordinances, and to eliminate contradictions between the state and county ordinances.
“There were a lot of gray areas. Sebacks were not clearly defined, and they (the ordinances) seemed unrealistic, and not user-friendly for today’s applications,” Janikula commented.
The zoning ordinance now requires that all feedlots, buildings housing livestock, and solid manure storage areas must be at least 100 feet from all property lines.
A feedlot is defined as any building or lot that houses animals, and where a vegetative cover cannot be maintained.
New feedlots with 10 or more animal units must be at least 500 feet from any dwelling, except for the house of an immediate family member.
No new feedlots can be located in any area classified as a shoreland district, which includes land that is within 1,000 feet of lakes or large wetlands, or within 300 feet of rivers and some steams and ditches.
The setback distance for non-shoreland wetlands has been increased to 300 feet for those listed on the DNR protected waters map.
The ordinance changes also limit the number of animals that can be kept on hobby farms.
Any farm with 10 or more animal units must be registered with the county every four years.
An animal unit is defined by state rule 7020. For example, a horse, steer, or beef cow is considered one animal unit, and calves are 0.2 animal units. Swine may be 0.4 or 0.3 animal units, depending on size. Sheep are 0.1 animal units, and chickens vary from 0.003 to 0.033 animal units, according to Janikula.
Existing agricultural-zoned farmsteads of 10 acres or less are restricted to 10 animal units or less.
Animals in the agricultural zoning district on four to 10-acre parcels, and all residential zoned property, are allowed up to a maximum density of one-half animal unit per acre.
No livestock are allowed on any parcel of less than four acres.
State regulations require that all manure and process wastewater applied within 300 feet of open tile intakes must be incorporated within 24 hours of application.
No manure application is permitted on frozen or snow-covered soils in the floodplain, and any applications to unfrozen soils in these areas must be immediately incorporated.
Manure application must be kept at least 300 feet away from lakes and streams, unless the manure is immediately incorporated, or there is at least a 100-foot, manure-free perennial buffer.
Violation of the ordinances is a misdemeanor, and each day a violation is allowed to continue is considered a separate offense.
Janikula said that the county has prosecuted violators, but prefers to educate people so that violations do not occur in the first place.
“It really helps if people check the regulations before they buy a piece of property, instead of buying something and then coming in and saying, ‘I have three acres, what can I do with it?’ and we have to tell them there is nothing they can do with it (because no livestock is allowed on parcels under four acres),” Janikula commented.
“It is a lot easier to plan ahead,” she said.
What about other counties?
Janikula said it is difficult to compare Wright County with neighboring counties, because the way the ordinances are written and the way setbacks are defined may not be the same.
“We are pretty lenient. We try to make it easier for people to have small hobby farms,” Janikula commented.
She noted that other counties may be more restrictive.
Carver County, she said, splits regulations by township, and the restrictions are tighter on the east side of the county than on the west side.
Some cities, including cities in Wright County, have setbacks and ordinances that are more restrictive than the county ordinances.
The setback requirement in some counties are greater than in Wright County, Janikula said.