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February 18, 2015 09:55 PM

Zoning Changes In Turner County Prompt Lawsuit

Parker, SD

Land owners concerned about a possible chicken farm in Turner County are now taking their case against new zoning rules to court. They accuse the Turner County Commission of approving new zoning regulations to allow a plant that would potentially house six million chickens to be built closer to the city.

She's one of the people listed on the complaint and has made her feelings about a proposed chicken farm known.

"The difference between a farm and a factory is this. The farm does not create a nuisance from miles around or present significant risks to human health," Katie Overvaag said during a public meeting Monday.

Overvaag and several other land owners are joining together in a suit against Turner County, the Turner County Commissioners and Sonstegard Foods, but it's not about the chicken farm itself.

Court documents lay out a timeline of events starting last July, when a notice was issued about possible zoning changes in Turner County. Several more public hearings were scheduled up to the point in September when zoning changes were approved. What changed is the number of animals used to determine how far away a building has to be from someone's land or a town.

Land owners also claim a fax from Sonstegard Foods given to the commissioners during the hearings influenced the adjustments made to the zoning laws, allowing an egg production plant from the company to about 2 1/2 miles from Parker. Under the previous zoning rules, the plant would need to be more than five miles from the city.

We reached out to Sonstegard Foods about the complaint against the company and received this statement.

"Sonstegard Foods and Peter Sonstegard are reviewing the matter and look forward to addressing all issues in the legal proceedings. We have no further comment at this time." 

Another major allegation in the complaint is that these changes were made with limited or no public input, which would be a violation of South Dakota law.

"According to the Turner County zoning regulations now, if you want to appeal, you have to go to court," John Chicione said.

We also reached out to the Turner County Commissioners. They are offering no comment on the case.

The land owners in the suit want the revised zoning laws to be ruled null and void because due process requirements were not followed. They also want the conditional use application from Sonstegard Foods rejected based on the older zoning laws.

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