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Dunn County PR&D postpones rezone decision for Denmark Dairy expansion

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Planning, Resources & Development Committee would like Denmark Dairy to remove 20 acres from a rezone request for 120 acres in order to protect Sinking Creek.

Denmark Dairy, located on county Highway B south of Colfax, has asked for the rezone of 120 acres in three 40-acre parcels from General Agriculture to Intensive Agriculture to accommodate expansion plans that would allow the dairy to have up to 3,100 animal units.

The PR&D committee held a public hearing on the rezone October 10.

Denmark Dairy currently has a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit that allows up to 3,100 animal units or approximately 2,200 dairy cows. The facility currently has 2,100 animal units, or approximately 1,500 milk cows. A dairy cow represents 1.4 animal units.

The rezone to Intensive Agriculture is necessary for Denmark Dairy to expand because the dairy has more than 1,000 animal units and is considered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO).

The Tainter Town Board is in favor of the rezone, and notices were sent to landowners in a somewhat larger radius than usual because of the size of the expansion, said Ben Bublitz, Dunn County zoning officer and planner.

The future land use of the parcels is identified as farmland in the county’s comprehensive land use plan, he said.

The Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment, as part of the expansion, granted a variance for the milk house to be located closer to the road than the county’s zoning code allows, noted Bob Colson, Dunn County planning and zoning administrator.

Denmark Dairy cannot expand without Intensive Agriculture zoning, and issues also exist with the ownership of the three 40-acre parcels, he said.

The zoning change could only be finalized after Denmark Dairy owns all three parcels. The two parcels on the west side of the existing dairy currently belong to Dennis and Mary Kragness, Colson said.

Denmark Dairy is owned by the Kragness family, and the name Denmark comes from Den(nis) and Mar(y) K(ragness).

Once a rezone is approved, Denmark Dairy would still need a special exception for the expansion from the Board of Adjustment, and the parcels would all have to be under the name of Denmark Dairy before coming to the BOA, Bublitz said.

Sinking Creek

PR&D member Gary Seipel, who is a Dunn County Board supervisor from Eau Galle, wondered about splitting the zoning on one of the 40-acre parcels.

Dunn County does not allow multiple zonings on a single parcel, and each 40-acre parcel is considered a single parcel, Colson said.

If the upper half of the 40-acre parcel to the north was taken out of the rezone, that would help protect the waterway to the north, Seipel said.

The waterway is called Sinking Creek, and half the time, it is dry when there has been insufficient rainfall, said PR&D member Gary Bjork, Dunn County Board supervisor from Colfax.

The creek bed could act as a conduit for runoff from the farm fields even if there is no water in the creek, noted PR&D member Mike Kneer, county board supervisor from Menomonie.

The expansion would not fit on the existing site of Denmark Dairy, so that is why the rezone is needed, Bublitz said.

Setbacks

The northern 40-acre parcel where Sinking Creek is located is requested in the rezone because a 150-foot setback is required for manure storage lagoons, said Karl Kragness of Denmark Dairy.

Another lagoon will be needed because of the additional cows, but the new lagoon will not fit on the existing site. The 40-acre parcel to the north must be rezoned to accommodate the new lagoon and would not be needed to build any structures for the expansion, Kragness said.

Dave McDaniel, an engineer with Auth Consulting, is the engineer for Denmark Dairy.

The parcel to the north is necessary because livestock siting rules require a 350-foot setback from the  boundaries of the parcels, McDaniel said.

A new lagoon would have to go through the state Department of Natural Resources review and approval process, he said.

Rezoning half of the 40-acre parcel would keep the possibility of the dairy from being any closer to Sinking Creek, said Tom Quinn, chair of the PR&D committee and a county board supervisor from Downing.

A residential area also is located to the north of the upper 40, Seipel noted.

A map of the area shows a 40-acre parcel separating the area for the requested rezone and the residential area.

A rezone of the entire parcel would open the possibility of expanding the dairy by the waterway, Seipel said.

PR&D members agreed that while the current owners of Denmark Dairy have no plans to expand the operation so that it is located closer to Sinking Creek, no one knows what the future might hold in 20 years if the ownership of the dairy were to change.

8 year plan

The current proposed expansion of Denmark dairy is a four-to-eight year plan, Kragness said.

Denmark Dairy is a family farm developed in stages. New lagoons will be built as needed, he said.

“I don’t know if you can ever have enough lagoons. More lagoon storage is better,” he said.

Kragness said he has toured other large dairy farms with wastewater treatment facilities, and he believes wastewater treatment is the future of dairy farming.

Because Denmark Dairy is a family farm, only so much expansion can be done at any one time, he said.

The expansion will be accomplished by “internal slow growth” over a four to six year period and will not be accomplished by buying more cows, Kragness explained, adding that he has been studying the efficiency of a rotary milking parlor compared with a robotic milker, and in order to invest in a rotary milking parlor, Denmark Dairy will need more cows.

The parcel to the east of the existing dairy is included in the rezone for feed storage, he said.

Public hearing

Several people spoke during the public hearing.

Pat Andraska, who lives on 770th Street about a mile south of Denmark Dairy, said he was concerned about the impact the expansion would have on his property value.

Andraska said he had worked and lived in Eau Claire, had retired five years ago and had then bought the property on 770th Street.

Andraska said he was concerned, too, about his well water and the groundwater.

“Is this the end, or will it go bigger? … I want to be a good neighbor but I also want to protect my assets,” he said.

Another neighbor who lives northeast of Denmark Dairy said he was concerned about the manure that would be spread from the dairy. He also was concerned with the decline of smaller farm operations.

Dick Lamers lives on 836th Avenue two miles from Denmark Dairy.

Lamers, the former president of the Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association, said Sinking Creek is considered a navigable waterway, and he is concerned about water quality and the watershed.

The size of the lagoons and the number of days of storage for manure impacts the waterways, Lamers said.

With more manure storage, large dairy farms will not have to spread manure during questionable conditions, which would in turn benefit the groundwater and the surface water, he said.

Glory Adams of Eau Claire said she was concerned about the wear and tear on the roads from all of the trucks associated with a large dairy.

Rezone

Kragness said he understood the concerns about the waterway and wondered if it would be an option for him to split the upper 40 in half and ask for a rezone on 20 acres.

The current application is for a rezone on three parcels. If the PR&D committee wants something different, Denmark Dairy could come back with a split of 20 acres, Colson said.

If Denmark Dairy owns all of the parcels and they are contiguous, then the setbacks do not apply between the 40-acre parcels, he said.

Seipel said he was not against the expansion of Denmark Dairy but that he wants to protect the waterway and would like to see the upper 20 acres left out of the request for a rezone to Intensive Agriculture.

Several PR&D members asked about a survey of the 40-acre parcel to make it into two 20-acre parcels.

If Denmark Dairy owns both of the parcels to the west, to split the upper parcel into two 20-acre parcels would not need a survey but instead, a description of the two parcels, said Tom Carlson, Dunn County surveyor.

Kragness and McDaniel both said the expansion could be completed with only the bottom half of the upper 40-acre parcel rezoned to Intensive Agriculture.

The PR&D committee approved a motion to postpone making a recommendation to the Dunn County Board on the proposed rezone for Denmark Dairy until the committee’s next meeting October 24.