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  Monday January 26th, 2015    

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Public hearing on farm dwelling rules (10/16/2013)
By Sarah Squires

It is a cycle that has been repeated since the earliest days in rural America: as older generations retire from a life of agriculture, their children are moving back to the farm.

For many Winona County farm families, the best way to make the transition between generations on the farm is to erect a second home on the farmstead, allowing adult children their own places to live while taking over the family farm.

The Winona County zoning ordinance, however, aims to regulate the construction of second farm dwellings. The regulations are meant to limit the number of secondary farm dwellings in order to minimize the potential for those homes to later be sold to families who donít farm. When a non-farm family moves into a residence that is so close to an agricultural operation, it can create conflicts: new owners of secondary farm dwellings ó often situated very close to farm operations ó may join the ranks of individuals who object to farm expansions, complaining of strong farm odors or other agricultural activities near their homes. Some have feared this opposition between farmers and rural residents who donít farm has threatened the expansion of the agricultural industry in Winona County.

The current ordinance allows a primary farm dwelling to be exempt from the 1,000-foot feedlot setback regulation; farm operators who would like to add a second dwelling on their farm parcels, also often close to a feedlot, must seek a permit from the county to situate the new structure closer than the 1,000-foot setback. Those seeking a permit for a secondary farm dwelling are often asked to guarantee the home will be used to house family or farm workers, and county leaders have been hesitant to grant permits based on the fear that the homes will later be sold, and the conflict between agricultural and non-agricultural neighbors will ensue.

An amendment to the ordinance has been proposed to make it easier for farm families to add a second home, and the Winona County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on the change. The new ordinance language would allow secondary farm dwellings to also be exempt from the 1,000-foot feedlot setback, as long as the home is not sold to an individual who does not farm within the first five years.

The amendment is one of a handful of proposed zoning ordinance amendments currently under consideration by county leaders. The other amendments were recommended for approval by the Planning Commission, and are expected to be the subject of a County Board public hearing next week. If the Planning Commission recommends approval of the amendment to make it easier to construct a secondary farm dwelling, that amendment will also be forwarded to the County Board for another public hearing.



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