From: Michael Meeker
It is clear that the Daley Farms’ request to expand its dairy operation is not a request for a mere “variance” — they are proposing a massive expansion that could threaten the health, safety and welfare of all of us in the region. The farm was already given a “variance” and grandfathered in, at 2,275 animal units — already exceeding Winona County’s 1,500-unit ordinance. Now the Daley Farms wants to add 3,000 additional cows. This is four times the number of animal units allowed. An operation this size would consume 96-million gallons of groundwater (almost three times Lewiston’s annual use). It would produce 46-million gallons of wastewater to be spread in an area already threatened with high nitrate levels. This proposal is definitely NOT “in harmony with the intent and purpose” of the county zoning ordinance.
Our family has a private well less than 20 miles from the Daley Farms, and we are worried about nitrate levels. We have tested our well every year since we bought the property in 1977, and the tests have always been below 10 parts per million. But in Winona County’s permeable karst formation, a problem at a large-scale feedlot a few miles up Highway 14 could affect our aquifer and our well.
Those supporting this proposal argue that the Daley Farms should have the right to expand their operation on their own land, that this is a question of individual freedom. Such freedom, however, does not extend to risking the health, safety and livelihood of the rest of the community. When this proposal and request for a variance comes before the Winona County Board of Adjustment on February 21, it clearly deserves to be denied: a massive expansion is not a mere variance. One of the stated criteria for awarding a variance is that “the request is due to special conditions or circumstances unique to the property not created by owners of the property since enactment of this ordinance.” It is obvious that the Daley’s request stems from their own stated wish to increase profits so that the land would support more of their family. I understand that the Daleys would wish to provide economic security for their family members, but I also know that Winona County wishes to protect the health and safety and welfare of all its citizens. The Daley Farms’ proposal fails to pass the county’s stated criteria for granting a variance. Winona County must reject this proposal and protect our community.