By Bruce Strand
STOCKHOLM TOWNSHIP, MN A proposed major expansion for the egg production facility at Forsman Farms, which has met some local opposition, passed a significant hurdle Tuesday evening (May 31).
Capping a two-hour meeting attended by about 50 people, the Stockholm Township planning and zoning board voted unanimously to accept the findings of a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) study that was favorable to Forsman’s proposal.
The board will officially vote on recommending the conditional use permit sought by Forsman Farms at its meeting June 7 and pass it on to the Stockholm Township Board of Supervisors.
“The MPCA, for two months, has been looking at every question that’s been raised,” commented David Sand, planning and zoning board member, “and they have a lot more resources in time and technology than we do, so we had to wait on their answers. They’ve concluded there’s no significant reason to fear environmental effects.”
Forsman Farms, he added, “didn’t ask for any special favors, and has bent over backward to try appease their neighbors (concerns).”
Copies of the MPCA’s 20-page report were distributed to the board and to anyone who wanted to read it.
The Stockholm Township Concerned Citizens group was formed late last year to raise concerns some residents have about increased odor, wells going dry, insects, rodents, dust, heavy truck traffic, property values, and bird flu, if Forsman Farms’ plans are approved.
The fourth-generation family farm seeks to expand from 1.2 million laying hens at its Howard Lake location off Highway 12 to an additional 1.25 million hens at the proposed new site four miles south, plus space for as many as 375,000 chicks.
Another planning and zoning board member, Leonard Wozniak said not only the MPCA report, but also other findings by the board were favorable to Forsman Farms.
Robert F. DeVolve, attorney for the Forsmans, urged the board to approve the expansion, citing the company’s meticulous planning and “state-of-the-art design and equipment” to achieve their goals while avoiding any negative effects.
He said the expansion was “exactly the kind of project that this area is zoned for” and that the MPCA “addressed each question point-by-point and concluded no negative impact,” including property values.
Lori DeRosier, representing the citizens’ group, expressed skepticism on several points made by Forsman Farms, especially property values, noting that one neighbor “walked away” from a home that he couldn’t sell, and another moved out of the area. DeRosier referred to Max Anderson, who was a leader of the citizens group and a very vocal critic of the proposed expansion, but has since moved to another community.
Jim Peters, an attorney for the citizens group, also challenged Forsman Farms on several issues, including whether the township board has final say. Peters said “in every other county” in the state, the township and county must both grant a conditional use permit.
Peter Forsman, executive for the farm, responded that his company has never had to seek county approval in the past.
Forsman, responding to questions presented by citizens and read by Wozniak, defended the company’s plans for such issues as drainage, manure processing, composting, and fending off avian flu, which, he pointed out, they successfully averted last year during an epidemic.