Compost Controversy Brings Regulations

New regulations enacted for composting operations in ‘ag’ zoning only. The zoning regulations for composting operations in areas under ‘recreational ag’ zoning stay the same.

The Cassgram reports the vote by the county board came after an existing compost operator in a recreational ag-zoned area that wanted to expand scaled back his request to a “pilot project.” But it appears there needs to be another change to the zoning code before that can be considered.

Earlier this year, Polished Properties, a subsidiary company of Gretna Sanitation, filed for a conditional use permit to expand a current 5-acre composting operation on 292nd Street in northwestern Cass County to 20 acres and add food waste to the compost mix.

After getting favorable recommendations from the county planning commission for the permit and the necessary zoning amendment (the zoning allowed for compost operations only up to 5 acres and no food mix), the Polished Properties request went before the Cass County Board of Commissioners where several people in the Horseshoe Lake area spoke against the zoning amendment during a public hearing on March 5th. (Archives 3/6/13) Commissioners tabled the amendment while they gathered more information.

During a public hearing on the conditional use permit this week, Andy Harpenau of Polished Properties said he was offering a compromise: that the current operation stays at 5 acres and that there be a one year allowance to include fruits and vegetables to the compost mix.

Harpenau said there would be no meat or dairy products in the mix. Other terms he offered included provisions to discontinue the project if an odor was identified and that Polished Properties be responsible for maintenance on the rock road leading to the site. An application for a NDEQ permit would not need to be made since the amount of edible material used in the mix would be under the NDEQ permit threshold.

The formality of submitting a written amended conditional use permit request had not yet been completed so the county board stopped the public hearing. A hearing will need to be scheduled on the new request.

Later in the meeting, Zoning Amendment 62 was before the board. Amendment 62 as it started out would have allowed for composting sites up to 20 acres and the introduction of edible materials in both ‘ag’ and ‘recreational ag’ zoned districts. After commissioners confirmed through the county attorney that they could make changes, commissioners voted 4 to 1 for motion made by District 4 Commissioner Dan Henry to apply the amendment to ag only and not change the regulations in recreational ag areas.

District 3 Commissioner Jim Peterson voted against the amendment because he said the discussion became “too confusing” and he wanted to delay a vote until everything was clear.

Cassgram talked with Zoning Administrator Mike Jensen and Board Chairperson Janet McCartney after the meeting. Both confirmed that it appears since no zoning change was made to allow “edible materials” in recreational ag composting operations, another zoning adjustment needs to be made before Polished Properties’ amended permit request (to add fruits and vegetables into the compost mix) could be considered. They are reviewing the necessary process.

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