Well this week has been quite a week of roller coaster emotions! Our week started out with a HUGE downer! On Monday, Jon attended the County Board of Adjustment meeting, to present our plans for our new construction. As part of that construction, we were hoping to build a lagoon (large lined storage area for manure) to store about 10 months of manure from our milking and dry cows. The current county law states that farms (all livestock farms) over 300 Animal Units must have 12 months of manure storage if they choose to build manure storage. Since we are over 300 Animal Units, we needed to appeal to the Board of Adjustment for a variance to allow us to have a smaller sized lagoon. The reasons for the smaller size were many, the largest one is the fact that a small dairy of our size has a difficult time affording that much of an investment. We also thought we could appeal to the board, since 10 months of storage is MORE than what we have currently, and would allow us go from weekly manure application to bi-yearly manure application (spring and fall applications). Unfortunately, after a valiant fight from Jon, we were defeated, 3 votes to 2 votes. Completely distraught, Jon called me. "Now what?!?!" We were in despair! This project was going to make the lives our cows more comfortable, as well as improving our own. Now those plans came to a crashing halt!
Jon contacted our County Feedlot Inspector to see if we had indeed run out of options. SUCCESS! One small loop-hole was found. If we agreed to build a lagoon for 12 months of manure storage in the next 3 years the County Planning and Zoning Committee would let us build our barn without the lagoon this fall. Our manure would need to be hauled out to our fields, according to our manure management plan, on a daily basis. This alone makes no sense to us. We would have thought it would be better to have 10 months of manure storage, rather than none at all, but apparently our county's law doesn't read that way. The reasons the Board of Adjustment gave were valid, but we do believe we addressed them.
The Board's primary concern was making sure to not set a precedent for others to come before the board. We were the first to try for a variance on this law, and it looks like we might be the last. The other concerns included hazards from hauling manure on county and township roads in the spring and risks of overflowing the lagoon. Ironically, even though the Board of Adjustment believed we were a risk; neighbors, friends, fellow dairymen, and our suppliers have all expressed support for our previous plans. It was really touching to have a visit yesterday with our dairy equipment dealer, who stopped specifically to see if there was anything he could do to help us with our hurdle.
So, for now, we have officially finished the financial paperwork for the project, changed and amended the permit applications, and are patiently waiting for next week and we find out if the County Board of Commissioners will give the "go ahead" in addition to the bankers. So...we wait, hoping for good news instead of roller coasters!