Zoning change recommended for pork facility

Zoning change recommended for pork facility by David Lias If everything goes as planners hope, Clay County could be the home to a new hog processing facility by this spring.

The Clay County Planning/Zoning Commission recommended Monday night that the zoning of approximately 20 acres located between Wakonda and Irene be changed from an A-1 Agricultural District to an I-2 Industrial District.

This is the first step for allowing the construction of the pork processing facility to take place.

Clay County Zoning Administrator David Wherry said the issue would next go the Clay County Commission for final approval. He recommended that, in the meantime, the plant's planners concentrate on the next requirement that's vital before construction can take place.

"What we would like you to do is go through the steps necessary for securing the special exemption permit that will be required at the same time that the county commission is working on the zoning change," Wherry told Robert Sikma, an attorney for the project from Dakota Dunes, and Bob Breukelman, an engineer with Henning, Metz, Hartford & Associates, Inc., Fargo, ND. This consulting engineering firm has developed a conceptual site plan layout and narrative project description for the hog processing facility.

There were no firm discussion on exactly where the financial backing would come from to make the new facility construction possible. Sikma noted that those interested in developing the plant aren't yet prepared to release that information.

He did indicate, however, what would be the general operating philosophy of the plant. The facility would be owned by a cooperative made up of the supplier of the hogs sent to the plant. Those suppliers would lease the plant at rates determined by the number of units of production they would require.

"We are talking about building a 20,000 square feet processing plant that would process from 1,000 to 1,500 head per day," Sikma said. "The idea is to be small and to operate as a service for producers so that they own their product all through the plant. They would pay a small fee for processing."

The plant's backers are developing a marketing plan for the value-added pork products that would be processed at the facility, he said. Sikma indicated that the pork could be marketed both domestically and in Asia.

"Hog producers are really supporting and backing us," he said. "This would be really a major benefit to them."

If successful, the facility could also boost the economy in that area of Clay County. Sikma noted that the plant would operate five days a week, and likely employ 60 to 65 people.

The processing facility, he said, would have much less of an environmental impact than a hog production facility.

"You're talking about something totally different when you have an enclosed slaughter facility," Sikma said. "There is no waste problem, and the facility has to be washed down daily. It will be extremely clean."

Wastewater discharged from the plant would receive secondary treatment, and be stored in lagoons.

The facility likely wouldn't create as much odor as a small farm hog lot, he added.

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