P&Z rejects hog station proposal

Recommendation moves to city council

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS – Parks Livestock Inc. CEO Lawrence Parks speaks in favor of his company building a hog buying facility within Marshalltown city limits at Thursday’s city Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

Not a seat went unfilled in the Marshalltown City Council Chambers at Thursday evening’s city Planning and Zoning Commission meeting with a controversial hog facility plan at the heart of the agenda.

After extensive discussion, the commission voted down two recommendations related to building a hog buying station at the corner of East Main Street and 18th Avenue.

“The request before you is coming from Parks of Iowa as a proposal within our M-2 heavy industry district, which is one of our large industrial districts, to allow the livestock wholesaling – the hog buying – as a special use within that district,” said city Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Spohnheimer. “An amendment would allow for that special use activity within any of those M-2 areas.”

The request was made by Parks of Iowa LC and voted down by all five members present – Chairman Jon Boston, Laura Eilers, Matt Brodin, Stephen Valbracht and Michele Buzbee. The company also recommended the city change the parcel of land on the potential build site from its current agricultural designation to a heavy industrial designation, and the commission voted 4-1 against that recommendation.

“We’re not a hog farm. We don’t have the same facility as what hog farms use. They have outdoor lagoons that they use, that they store their manure in, they have underground pits at their facility that they store their manure in, they liquify their manure,” said attorney Adam Van Dike, representing Parks.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS – A large group of residents pack into the Marshalltown City Councils chambers to share their thoughts on a proposed hog buying facility on the northeast edge of Marshalltown Thursday.

The facility would instead have concrete floors and pig excrement would be absorbed by a bedding of hay and sawdust. That bedding would be cleaned and replaced a few times a week. About 600-700 hogs rejected by the JBS plant would be held there for pickup by other plants.

“There are a certain amount of hogs that they do not want to run through their kill but are still good animals and there are other plants that want to use those animals,” company President and CEO Lawrence Parks said.

The company’s requests have drawn the ire of many Marshalltown residents. Leland Searles, former director of the Iowa Environmental Council’s air quality program, was one of them. He was concerned about the toxic, smelly chemicals hog facilities can produce.

“I do know that the bedding materials as described tonight will reduce those odors, but they will not remove that entirely,” Searles said.

Fellow Marshalltown resident Jinita Boyd said she also does not want to see such a facility built.

“We realize we live in the middle of an agricultural area where people raise pigs and they need to process them, but I would not want to add anything more to that processing,” she said. “We’re trying to make our downtown visible and nice and to draw people here, and then we want to shoot ourself in the foot by putting another hog business at the end of Main Street?”

The hog buying station-related recommendations will go to the city council for discussion on Aug. 26. The Planning and Zoning Commission can only make official recommendations to the council. The council must pass any ordinance changes itself, and that process involves multiple readings and a time set aside for public comments.

U-Haul and outdoor storage

Taking a back seat to the proposed hog buying facility Thursday was a recommendation from U-Haul.

When company leaders approached the city about buying the old K-Mart site to use for their vehicle rental service, they requested the city permit the store’s use of outdoor storage units in the parking lot area. That request was turned down, and currently U-Haul can only have indoor storage.

U-Haul then made a recommendation to the city to allow outdoor storage units with a special use permit. Four commission members voted “no” on the recommendation, while Eilers voted “yes.”

Spohnheimer said all three major recommendations addressed Thursday will appear as discussion items at the next Marshalltown City Council meeting. That meeting is set for 5 p.m. Aug. 26 in the council chambers, 10 W. State St.


Contact Adam Sodders at 641-753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com