Washington County resident Tyler Gerot was granted a Waiver of Enforcement of Separation Distance for a hog building built on his property that was in violation of the separation distance required between the confinement building and the right of way.
Iowa code requires the building to be at a 100-foot separation distance between the public right of way and the building, but Gerot’s is only at 63 feet. He said he spoke with a county employee and was told there was no distance requirement per county code.
Washington County Engineer Jacob Thorius said the preference is that buildings are built back as far as possible to accommodate for future construction; however, there is no county restriction that enforces that. In this event, Iowa State Code is to be enforced which regulates the separation distance.
“My biggest concern is if you grant this waiver we’re opening the door for any other person out there who has to follow these regulations,” he said, explaining he feared this waiver becoming a snowball effect of other property owners coming to the supervisors for a waiver. “We’re setting ourselves up for more of this down the road.”
The DNR has not yet raised concern about the violation, but Rachel Rinner of Knee Deep Solutions, whose company creates manure management plans, accompanied Gerot and explained he was trying to act retroactively to solve the issue. She explained that the space did not require a manure management plan, therefore the DNR was not consulted and Gerot did not know about the restriction.
Thorius said he spoke to the DNR and though they did not have a plan of action as of yet, consequences could range from an administrative penalty to possibly closing the building.
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. expressed that he was uneasy about granting a waiver for a rule not written by the county, but Thorius explained such waivers have been granted before, with the difference being those waivers were before the building was constructed.
“The fact of the board granting a waiver, it’s called out in code to do that part I don’t think we should have any problems with, it’s more the fact that this is an after-the-fact waiver,” he said.
Supervisor Abe Miller said he felt Gerot was acting on good faith and Supervisor Stan Stoops echoed that sentiment, saying he was fearful of the potential consequences of an administrative penalty or having the buildings shut down.
“If the consequences are going to support doing something like that, I don’t want to do that to him,” he said. “I don’t want to shut this kid down.”
Seward said that after hearing all of the comments, his opinion on the matter was that this was a learning experience for people that even though the county may not have a law, they should always check with the DNR.
“You may not be required to have a plan, but there may be some other rules and regulations you have to abide by,” he said.
The motion passed 4-1 with Bob Yoder providing the sole nay vote.