Disappointed with County Board process

To the editor:

On Tuesday, May 16, the Brown county Board of Commissioners approved a conditional use permit for a hog confinement barn in Mulligan Township, less than a half mile from our home. As rural residents of this county, we should all look at this decision with trepidation. All surrounding counties maintain a minimum of a half mile set back from residential property, but not Brown County. There seems to be discrepancy on what the law is or if there even is one. The Planning and Zoning office says a quarter mile is the “suggested” distance to notify citizens. But my understanding is if it was pushed hard enough, the current Board of Commissioners would find a way to build it there.

Only one board member, Dave Borchert, seemed to take our neighborhood’s concerns seriously, and I thank him for that. The concerns we brought forward were both environmental and quality of life issues. There are many real and tangible problems with this proposal. One of them is absentee ownership. Mr. Beckius lives ten miles away from this site and will not be subjected to any of the negative impacts of this particular barn. Mr. Beckius wants to argue that he lives next to his current barns, and it’s not that bad. He admits that it smells “sometimes.” To which the board told us we would just have to live with that. Mr. Beckius claimed over and over that they would be “good neighbors.” Which has become a running joke in the neighborhood, as a good neighbor would never force his will on others and a good neighbor wouldn’t have to hire an attorney to prove how good he was.

But my biggest disapointment is with the process itself. We went from a unanimous decision to deny by the Planning and Zoning Committee, with the motion made by Commissioner Potter, to a 4-1 vote to approve by the commissioners, motion made by Commissioner Potter.

I am fully aware that Brown County is home to not one, but two pork powerhouses. And one can only wonder what type of pressure this puts on our commissioners’ decisions. But at some point, we need to protect the citizens who choose to live here and support our communities. We are in no way anti-animal agriculture, but a little common sense would go a long way. It is no surprise to me that the commissioners are seated for these meetings, as one would find it hard to stand up without a spine.

Brad Nachreiner

Comfrey

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