BLUE EARTH - Faribault County commissioners approved two conditional use permits Thursday, while a third request was withdrawn.
Permits for Ray and Jim Oswald's feedlot for 1,000 animals in Emerald Township, and Steve and Becky Krause's bed and breakfast in Delavan quickly won approval.
But a third permit request for corn storage was withdrawn by Larry Paul of Easton. Commissioners approved the withdrawal, with Commissioner Bill Groskreutz dissenting.
Paul asked Groskreutz to explain his vote.
"I lean toward a stricter interpretation of the law," said Groskreutz, adding that if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. "If it looks like a business, it is a business."
At the heart of the dispute is the fact that Paul allowed area farmers to store corn on his land during the harvest.
Michele Stindtman, director of the Soil and Water Conservation District, said she received a complaint, something she must investigate.
Paul said he was contacted by Stindtman and was told he must get the permit or face misdemeanor charges. He went through the application, but when he read the ordinance, he realized the wording pertained to a primary use of running a business.
"This is not a primary use," he said. "The corn is there five weeks a year."
Paul contacted commissioners Tom Loveall and Tom Warmka, then withdrew his application.
"I tried to help fellow farmers and I'm getting raked over the coals," said Paul, noting he received no money for making his land available.
"We have [conditional use permits] all the time for people who want to do something for other people," Stindtmans said. "On the money thing, the exchange of money does not make a difference on any [conditional use permit].
"Conditional use is about health, safety and welfare," she said. "What if [the corn] had been piled in the road ditch? It's just like everything that has an impact on health, safety and welfare."
Grain elevators are located in towns, putting them under a given city's jurisdiction. But anything outside city limits puts it in the county's jurisdiction, and thus Soil and Water's, Stindtman said.
"It was the call I made," she said. "I worked with the county attorney."
She pointed out that the county zoning ordinance was written in 1967 and should probably be reviewed.
"They didn't stockpile grain like this back then," she said.
"Sometimes we have to go through these things to realize what needs to be modified for use in 2012 and not 1967."
Warmka is a farmer himself.
"Thank you for allowing farmers to dump corn on your property during harvest," he told Paul. "Corn was getting so darn dry we were losing test weight. You sell corn by weight. Don't think it was necessary to have a [conditional use permit] filed on this property.
"You did your job," Warmka told Stindtman, "but not everybody was treated the same. Other towns had corn piles and weren't reported throughout the county. I know there's bad politics here. This is one thing where we can right the ship."
"A farmer has a right to build grain storage," Loveall said. "It was incidental and unforeseen."
He added that the zoning language needs to be cleaned up: "It doesn't look like a duck now, but it could," he said.