Feedlot proprietor sues Newburg Township Board

By : 
LISSA BLAKE
NEWS LEADER

A couple seeking to build a new hog farrowing facility is suing the Newburg Township Board.

Last week, Plaintiffs Alvin and Merilee Hein filed a lawsuit against Newburg Township, the Newburg Township Board of Supervisors, Newburg Township Board Chair Oswald “Ozzie” Landsom and Newburg Township Board Supervisor Mark Gjere.

The lawsuit asked to have a special Newburg Township meeting scheduled for last Thursday, Aug. 2, postponed until the “Court has time to adequately address the merits of the serious and multiple allegations of misconduct” by the defendants. (See related story on the meeting in this issue.)

History

In addition to Landsom and Gjere, the third Newburg Township Board Member is Steve Melbostad, who is employed by the Hein family.

Previously, Landsom and Gjere suggested Melbostad’s involvement may constitute a conflict of interest and voted to remove Melbostad from any deliberations regarding the Hein project or any related conversations regarding potential zoning changes governing feedlots in the township.

One of the “missteps” the plaintiffs accuse the defendants of is initially removing Melbostad from the deliberations and extending that removal for the purpose of exploring an interim ordinance/moratorium on new or expanded feedlots.

The lawsuit goes on to accuse the Board of an open meeting violation on July 12, for a private “pre-meeting” before the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting and two additional open meeting violations. 

It also calls the hiring of Attorney Kevin Lee as Township’s counsel “arbitrary and capricious,” and contends that Lee is not an impartial choice because of his previous commitments to represent organizations, which are opposed to Hein’s project.

A full copy of the lawsuit can be found online at http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2018/07/all-citizens-are-....

Can’t comment

When asked about the impending lawsuit, Hein said he could not comment, based on the advice of legal counsel.

The project

The Heins are the majority shareholders in Catalpa, LLC, which proposes to build a new 4,890-head farrowing facility about 10 miles east of Harmony in Newburg Township. It would include two barns, an animal mortality composting building, a stormwater basin and a livestock watering well. The proposed site would be built on land owned by the Heins.

The proposed facility would generate an estimated 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure annually that would be stored in reinforced concrete pits below the barns, with a total capacity of nearly 8.9 million gallons,

Catalpa would remove the manure in the fall and inject it into cropland as fertilizer following an MPCA-approved manure management plan requiring at least 732 acres of cropland. More than 1,781 acres of cropland are available for land application among 24 manure application sites in the county.