SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Wholestone Farms’ butcher shop will continue to move forward as Sioux Falls voters weigh on the issue of slaughterhouses in city limits, a Minnehaha County judge ruled Wednesday morning.
Circuit Court Judge Sandra Hoglund Hanson denied an injunction that would have revoked permits already issued for Wholestone Farms by the city of Sioux Falls. Judge Hanson said a trial would need to be held for the court to provide “extraordinary relief” to the plaintiffs.
“The election can go forward,” Hanson said in court Wednesday.
Any future trial would likely come after the election, Smart Growth legal counsel Brendan Johnson confirmed after Wednesday’s hearing. Election Day is set for Nov. 8.
“There is going to be a trial on this issue,” Johnson said. “I agree with Wholestone that we’ll be back in court again.”
Johnson said he believes the judge wants more information on this issue and noted the judge did not say the city didn’t fail to follow South Dakota State Law 9-20-11. That law says “Pending the election, the governing body may take no action with respect to the subject matter of the petition that would alter or preempt the effect of the proposed petition.”
“All Wholestone has done is follow the law,” Wholestone’s lawyer James Simko told the judge.
Reed Rasmussen, who is representing the City of Sioux Falls, argued the city granting permits has not alerted the election or the petition.
Wholestone Farms told KELOLAND News last week that construction on the butcher shop near Interstate 229 and Benson Road was done.
On Wednesday, Luke Minion, CEO of Pipestone Holdings and chairman of the board for Wholestone Farms, told KELOLAND News Wholestone Farms will hold a ribbon-cutting next week on Oct. 25. Minion said the butcher shop will start processing hogs before Election Day on Nov. 8.
“We’re glad,” Minion said about Wednesday’s court decision. “Wholestone has been following the rules throughout this process.”
Smart Growth Sioux Falls treasurer Robert Peterson sent KELOLAND News a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“Back-room dealings over this butcher shop are just the latest in a long series of Wholestone’s desperate attempts to sidestep the will of voters,” Peterson told KELOLAND News. “Today, the court reaffirmed that the city-issued permits were illegal, but the judge decided that revoking them will require a longer proceeding, so she opted to hear those arguments after the vote. The law is on our side, so we are confident in the outcome, and we are confident that Sioux Falls residents will vote YES to Stop the Stink.”
Minion said regardless of how the vote on the slaughterhouse ordinance goes, Wholestone Farms plans to continue to move forward. In statement released later Wednesday morning, Minion said all of Wholestone’s permits remain valid.
“Despite the repeated claims of Smart Growth, there is no evidence that the City or Wholestone violated any statute or rule,” Minion said in an emailed statement. “Wholestone has followed all applicable rules and will continue operations as planned. Wholestone looks forward to working in, and contributing to, the community of Sioux Falls.”
Sioux Falls residents will decide on a ballot measure focused on whether the city will prohibit construction of new slaughterhouses within city limits on Nov. 8. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 24.
“Voters are smart enough to see what’s going on here with this butcher shop idea,” Johnson said. “Voters will have the finally say. There will be more confusion for voters, but we’ll see how the voters handle it.”
The Sioux Falls slaughterhouse ordinance, if passed, would ban new slaughterhouses from being built and permitted to operate inside the city limits of Sioux Falls. It would not pertain to any existing slaughterhouses constructed and operating, at the existing site, before the effective date of the measure.
A “yes” vote would be in favor of changing the city ordinance to ban future slaughterhouses from being built inside city limits. A “no” vote would leave the existing rules (zoning ordinances) in place and would allow for future slaughterhouses to be built.
“I think what matters now is that we get voters out, that voters make their voices heard to Wholestone in November and let Wholestone know that we don’t support this project in the city,” Johnson said. “That’s where this court has left the decision today; it’s in the hands of voters.”
KELOLAND News has asked Wholestone whether the butcher shop will meet the city’s definition of a slaughterhouse, which is “A facility for the slaughtering and processing of animals and the refining of their byproducts.” As of Wednesday night we have not received a response; this report will be updated if and when we do.
Smithfield Foods, owners and operators of the biggest hog processing plant in Sioux Falls, told KELOLAND News the company has no position on the slaughterhouse ordinance voters are weighing in on. Jim Monroe, Smithfield Foods’ vice president of corporate affairs, said the company has no plans to build a new facility in Sioux Falls.