Interested voters were on hand at the Grant County Courthouse as precincts turned in their ballots during the June 7 primary election. The much anticipated vote to approve or disapprove Ordinance 2016-1 resulted in the “Yes” votes prevailing at 1,526 votes and the “No” count falling short at 1,058.
The issue had been hotly contested for a year and a half. In January 2015, Grant County Commissioners asked the county planning commission to review Ordinance 2004-1. In particular, they considered the setbacks of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) and animal units (AU). Ordinance 2016-1 implemented changes to section 13 of the 2004 ordinance. The commissioners approved Ordinance 2016-1 with a vote of 5-0 in March of this year. Following that decision, referral petitions were circulated and filed with enough signatures to bring the question to a public vote.
Yesterday’s “Yes” vote approves the amendments adopted by the Board of County Commissioners on March 1, 2016, and the amendments detailed in Ordinance 2016-1 will take effect.
The “No” vote would have rejected the amendment, thus blocking the implementation of Ordinance 2016-1 and the changes it contained. Ordinance 2004-1 would have remained in effect.
“I think this is going to be better than what we had,” stated Vince Meyer, President of the Grant County Concerned Citizens and representative for the “Yes” side. “It’s good this was brought to a vote. The people spoke.”
Meyer also feels bringing the issue to a vote was a fair and honest process. “In the long run, it is definitely going to benefit everybody. Most people did not understand the ordinance. They could read it, but they didn’t understand it. I don’t understand 100% of it, but I know enough to see we needed a change from what we had. We got that change and now we can go back to work.”
Mark Leddy, CEO of Valley Queen Cheese and representative of the “No” side, was pleased with the turnout of voters he believed was driven by the issue. “I feel like people cared and took interest in this issue,” he stated. “Obviously, I would have liked to see the vote go the other way, but Grant County is still moving forward and still running and we will continue to do so.”
Leddy and Meyer both agree a lot of confusion remains concerning the ordinance and zoning regulations and they hope to get that cleared up in the future. “The full impacts will play out over time as existing operations grow and new ones are formed,” said Leddy. “One thing all operations need to get better at is being a bigger advocate for themselves and what they do and work to become more vocal and educate the public on how they contribute to Grant County and society in general. There are a lot of excellent beef and dairy operations out there and many misunderstand what goes on with those operations.”