Cass County Supervisors approve 1st reading of Amended Zoning Ordinance

Ag/Outdoor, News

January 9th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

After more than 75-minutes worth of discussion about an amendment to the County’s Zoning Ordinance that would change the Zoning Districts’ Permitted Principal Uses, the Cass County Board of Supervisors Wednesday approved the first vote on the matter. However, their approval came with the caveat that the Cass County Attorney review the wording as it stands, and comment on whether the words “Light Industrial” needs to be added to one sentence in the amendment. The question also remains, whether those two words will cause a conflict between the County, and Fagen, Incorporated, which has already purchased the former Amaizing Energy Ethanol site, and looks to use the property for renewable energy production.

Last Fall, Kathy Schowalter with PlanScape Partners, presented to the Board a proposal from Ron Fagen, CEO of Granite Falls, Minnesota-based Fagen, Incorporated, which pertained to the possible creation of a 25-million gallon Cellulosic ethanol plant on the Amaizing Energy site. During Wednesday’s meeting, Schowalter said while they had hoped a cellulosic ethanol plant would be operating on the site, that is by no means a certainty.

She said Fagen doesn’t have a buyer lined up for the site he purchased just yet, so it could become almost anything ag related, including a seed corn processor. But it would not become a CAFO – Confined Animal Feeding Operation. She said they simply don’t know what will “Come down the pike.”

Cass County Engineer Charles Marker expressed his concern that two words apparently left out of the amended ordinance may leave a loop hole for heavy industrial operations to locate in a Light Industrial Zone, not just at the Amaizing Energy site, but anywhere in the County. He said he ordinance as worded does not specifically say a site will be used for “Light Industry.” Instead, it says “Industry which uses renewable energy,” which he says, becomes an “Administrative problem.” That means any industry, heavy or not, which uses renewable energy as a means of production, could apply under article 17 of the ordinance.

Zoning Administrator Rich Hansen said the Zoning Commission, which forwarded its recommendation to the Supervisors for their approval, would have no problem with a slight re-wording to the amendment, prior to next week’s second hearing and vote by the Supervisors. But Supervisor Chuck Rieken questioned whether the Board has the right to delete or add language to an amendment without making sure the legalities are taken care of. That means consulting with County Attorney Dan Feistner.

The Board then approved the Zoning Commission’s initial recommendation, with the stipulation legal counsel provide input for the next hearing.