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Magnolia Town Board grants Larson Acres permit

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GINA R. HEINE
December 18, 2009
— Larson Acres is down to one permit approval on its expansion plans after the Magnolia Town Board granted a conditional-use permit at a meeting Thursday night.

The board voted unanimously to approve the permit with five conditions, Supervisor Dave Olsen said after the meeting.


The conditions pertain to water testing and sharing information between Larson Acres and the town, and also include:


-- Having Larson Acres exchange management practice information with the town, including notification of all changes.


-- Having Larson Acres allow access for water quality testing in well water at the facility, in tile lines, Allen Creek and Norwegian Creek, upon notification.


"We're definitely pleased that the town board approved the (conditional-use permit)," farm spokesman Mike Larson said. "That's a good thing. We've been working together very well, and we're very appreciative of them approving it."


However, Larson said, the conditions still go beyond what the state livestock siting law allows, he said.


"We think we've gone way beyond what's required under the state law," he said.


Conditions the town set on a 2007 conditional-use permit for the farm on County B have ended up in the state court of appeals, where the case awaits a hearing.


"All in all we are pleased we did get our permit, but a little disappointed they went down the same road as before," Larson said.


Once the appeals court rules on the case, Olsen said the town would modify the new permit to fit the court's ruling.


"We would, in good faith, change this one," he said.


The permit condition that allows the town to test water at Larson Acres was a way the town found common ground, Olsen said, because the farm says its practices won't affect the water.


"If you are that confident … let us test and show the world that Larson Acres is doing great," Olsen said. "And I hope they are, because I want them to. I don't want to worry about polluted water."


Larson Acres needs approval on one more permit—a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the state Department of Natural Resources.


Larson said the DNR will have a hearing in Evansville on the permit in spring. He compared the permit to an occupancy permit.


"This is basically the inspection," he said.


Construction is under way on the project, with concrete being poured and barn posts going in after the farm received a building permit in fall.


In July, Larson Acres submitted an application to build a $12.8 million expansion at its home farm at 18218 W. Highway 59, Evansville. The project will double the farm's herd to 5,275 Holsteins. Currently the farm raises 2,668 animals between the home farm and a heifer facility at 17162 W. County B, Brodhead.


Larson Acres will continue to milk cows in the facilities it already has on Highway 59, Larson has said. Barns and a second milking parlor will be built along the west side of the farm.



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