SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Another development is unfolding in the effort to prevent any new slaughterhouses from being built within Sioux Falls city limits.

Friday, Smart Growth Sioux Falls announced that they had filed a civil suit in the Second Judicial Court to prevent Wholestone Farms from building a pork plant in Sioux Falls. The filing, which can be read here, includes Mayor Paul TenHaken and the Sioux Falls City Council.

The suit alleges that Wholestone is attempting to push through the plant prior to the November election where voters will have a chance to decide whether to adopt an initiated measure to prevent slaughterhouses from being built in city limits.

“Wholestone appears to believe that operating the small-scale custom Butcher Shop before the November election will allow it to fall into an exemption in the Initiative for expansion of existing slaughterhouses,” the suit states.

Smart Growth Sioux Falls legal counsel Brendan Johnson, a former United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota, told KELOLAND News he got involved because he wants people in the city to have more say with water quality issues with the Big Sioux River. 

“Our community is going to be having a big debate over this. It’s going to take place in churches and coffee shops and civic clubs,” Johnson said. “We should have that debate about things like water and air quality. I want to make sure that we’re able to have that discussion and make sure that we have a vote that matters in November.”

Smart Growth fears that if allowed to continue to build the Butcher Shop, Wholestone will be able to override the will of the voters.

“This legal challenge is necessary to protect the rights of voters to decide an extremely controversial issue that would directly impact everyone in Sioux Falls,” said Smart Growth Sioux Falls Treasurer Robert Peterson in a release sent Friday.

Johnson said he’d like to protect the debate on the issue. 

“This is such a big debate about what the future of Sioux Falls is going to look like,” Johnson said. “We want to press pause on this project so that we have a fair debate and an election that we know matters in November.”

In the complaint, Smart Growth alleges that Wholestone needs permits that would be issued by the City of Sioux Falls. According to SDCL § 9-20-11; SDCL § 9-20-4, the suit goes on to state that the city cannot interfere with the initiative measure and issue such permits until voters are able to decide in November. The suit alleges the city is still performing inspections on the Butcher Shop.

The suit also insists that the butcher shop at Wholestone is a way for the plant to circumvent this process by beginning construction before the election.

The petition started in response to Wholestone Farms, which announced in 2021 it purchased 175 acres in Sioux Falls near Interstate 229 and Benson Road for a hog processing plant.

Luke Minion, Chairman of the board for Wholestone Farms, said he doesn’t believe the petition should be voted on in the ballot box. The company has launched a new webpage to describe its original plans for a “state-of-the-art” hog processing facility that would bring 1,000 full-time jobs to Sioux Falls.

In a KELO Radio interview last week, Noem said she opposes the ballot measure because it will scare future businesses away from the state. 

Smart Growth has also filed a public records request with the governor’s office for “…communications that could reveal which slaughterhouse operators may be working behind the scenes to locate more industrial meat-packing facilities in Sioux Falls.”

The message of what businesses can and cannot operate is the same concern the South Dakota Pork Producers Council told KELOLAND News in April. 

Glenn Muller, the organization’s executive director, said the city shouldn’t be limiting one industry over the other. 

“That’s very detrimental,” Muller said. “I think it sets a strong precedent that could be used in other businesses that could be very concerning for further economic development of Sioux Falls.” 

Minion encouraged anyone with odor concerns or questions to reach out and view its website for the project. 

On that website under the question about odor, Wholestone Farms says: “The wastewater system will include covered lagoons. It will be designed and maintained with the latest technologies to minimize odor. Livestock delivery trucks will also be scheduled and staged to minimize odor.”