SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A debate on what the future of Sioux Falls looks like is ramping up as construction continues at the site of Wholestone Farms’ “custom slaughterhouse.”
Luke Minion, CEO of Pipestone Holdings and Chairman of the board for Wholestone Farms, told KELOLAND News construction to finish the smaller-scale hog processing shop is on schedule to be finished by the middle of October. Wholestone Farms wants to have the facility up and running before a November 8 vote on whether the city of Sioux Falls will prohibit construction of new slaughterhouses within the city limits.
“There’s obviously a lot to do and we’re thankful to be making good progress,” Minion said. “All the things that we need to get done to harvest our first pig there, we expect mid-October to have that done. And then harvest more pigs going forward.”
The Sioux Falls City Attorney’s explanation of the initiated measure notes “the ordinance does not pertain to any existing slaughterhouse constructed and operating before the effective date of this measure, nor does it apply to the expansion or alteration of any slaughterhouse constructed and operating before the effective date of the measure as long as the expansion or alteration occurs at the existing site.”
That’s why the group opposing Wholestone Farms’ plans for a “state-of-the-art” hog processing facility on 175 acres near Interstate 229 and Benson Road has filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Sioux Falls to stop the construction.
Smart Growth Sioux Falls legal counsel Brendan Johnson told KELOLAND News he wants to protect the debate regarding slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls.
“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, a former United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota, 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.”
Two issues or one?
Minion believes there are two separate issues: Wholestone’s project, which hopes to be operational and unaffected by the ballot measure regardless of the outcome, and the impact the ballot measure will have on other industries.
“While they’re related, they’re not the same,” Minion said. “Our information about Wholestone, we’ve got the website and anybody that has called myself or my team, I’m confident we get back to them. On the ballot itself, I believe there’ll be others soon to start kind of pointing out and helping inform voters about what this ballot means to our community.”
Johnson said what’s next in the process is for people in Sioux Falls to debate and decide what they want.
“Do we want more slaughterhouses inside of the city? Or do we want to say to future slaughterhouses, including Wholestone, ‘You can do what you want, but you’ve got to do it outside of the city,” Johnson said. “Inside the city, we don’t want the air and water quality and the traffic issues that we’re going to have.”
On its 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.”
Johnson said he’d like to hear from city leaders about the project and show studies of how Wholestone would impact air quality and the Big Sioux River.
“Let’s have more information about this,” Johnson said. “Let’s press pause; let the voters of Sioux Falls decide the issue.”
Harm to agriculture?
When asked what he’d say to hog farmers that would be harmed if the Wholestone Farms project is stopped and future slaughterhouses are banned in Sioux Falls, Johnson said there’s not a division either in favor or against hog farmers.
“No one is against hog farming,” Johnson said. “This is an awful big state. There’s a lot of places where these can go that are outside of the city limits. In Sioux Falls, voters aren’t unique in this. I think if you put this up for discussion, in most communities, they’d say, ‘Great project. Love it, put it outside of the city limits.’”
Minion said he wants voters to understand the initiated measure to ban slaughterhouses has greater impacts beyond the Wholestone project.
“Telling businesses that you can change the rules because a very small group of people want to change them in the middle or after a project. That’s a very bad precedent,” Minion said. “I think a large number of our fellow residents and businesses in the state are looking at this for what it is. And what it is is a risk to all future business development.”
When asked about the “very small group of people” and the more than 10,000 signatures Smart Growth Sioux Falls turned into the city clerk’s office, Minion said people were paid to gather signatures. He said one person trying to get signatures even approached him to sign the petition.
“It’s OK to have people that have a different view. That’s part of the process,” Minion said. “To do it in this way, I think is not beneficial for our community. To do it in this moment, where Wholestone spent all this time and money and the farmers are now kind of put in a position where they had an opportunity to move forward and that opportunity is being questioned or challenged.”
Early voting starts on Sept. 23 in South Dakota. Voter registration ends Oct. 24 and Election Day is Nov. 8.