Commissioners grant conditional use permit to Riverview, LLP for agricultural processing plant

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved a conditional use permit (CUP) for Riverview, LLP at their April 2 regular meeting.

Before the regular board meeting, the Planning Commission met on March 18 to hear the CUP request from Riverview, LLP. The proposed is to construct and operate an agricultural processing plant that will process raw milk and create cream and dried skim milk products, which will be packaged and shipped to others to be used as ingredients for several products. The project building area is 148,000 square feet and will include an office area, stainless steel milk and cream tanks, milk driers, laboratory/testing areas, loading areas, warehouse area, truck parking bays for incoming milk and outgoing ingredients, stormwater ponds, a recovered water storage basin, a wastewater storage basin, driveways, and parking lots. The plant is designed to have all processing occur inside the facility, and most day-to-day operations would occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. with the processing equipment inside the facility designed to run continuously, 24 hours per day, seven days per week. It is expected the plant will employ approximately 65 people in total. 

The plant will be located on approximately 55 acres in a portion of the north half of the southwest quarter of Section 25 in Darnen Township.

Once construction begins, a one-and-a-half to two-year construction phase is anticipated. There is no current start date for construction.

After the planning commission meeting, the members of the commission recommended approval of the requested CUP in a 6-0 vote, with the abstention of member Jeff Boyle.

Several members of the public attended the regular board meeting, filling the board room. Two attendees made public comments in support of granting the CUP.

Kurt Wulf stated that he appreciates long-term sustainable growth as a parent with children entering the workforce. He added that projects like this will create jobs locally while attracting new families into the community. “As a member of the Morris Area School Board, I get excited when we get to increase our enrollment. I believe our entire community will benefit from this project,” he said.

Justin Cronen also spoke in support of the project and highlighted the economic benefits that it could have on the community. Cronen is a member of the Hancock School Board and stated that the school in Hancock is growing as well, and seeing strong enrollments. In addition to serving on the Hancock School Board, Cronen also serves on the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission. He added that, overall, the county is in good shape economically which is not the case for every small school district and rural county. “Look back at the last couple of recessions, and Stevens County has fared very well, and a lot of that is thanks to the people of Riverview and some of the other major employers in the area for being able to identify these opportunities and put these projects together,” he said, while again adding that this is not the case for many other small counties.

Riverview did request to amend the language of condition 15 of the Planning Commission report to the board. The original condition laid responsibility for the maintenance and restoration of all county and township roads used as haul roads of operation on Riverview and also stated that in the event of haul roads being damaged or suffering more than ordinary wear due to the operation’s use, to suspend operation until all required maintenance is completed to the satisfaction of the Townships and County Engineer. The way this was originally written read as though this meant that Riverview would be responsible for all roads within the county, and so they requested that the amendment be changed to read that Riverview will be responsible for the county and township gravel roads used as haul roads during the construction of the facility and once the facility is in operation, haul roads within 1,320 feet of the facility’s driveway that suffer extraordinary damage or deterioration due to the use of the operation, Riverview, upon written notification by the Zoning Administrator or proper road authority, will complete all required maintenance within 60 days, or as soon as is practical, to their own expense and the satisfaction of the Township or County Engineer, as applicable. The amendment to this condition was accepted along with the granting of the CUP.

Three members of the planning commission are nearing the end of their five-year terms. Rich Buro, Ace Sperr, and Tom Lesmeister all indicated that they were willing to continue serving on the commission and all three were re-appointed by the board of commissioners.

County Engineer Todd Larson came to the board looking for approval to dispose of old snow plow equipment that no longer fits on the current trucks, used motor grader tires that didn’t sell on a previous auction, and a Front Wheel Drive blower truck. This request was granted.

Larson was also looking for approval to award the bid for the 2024 crack filling project to Lot Pros Inc. from Fergus Falls, as well as approval to purchase one semi-load of Mastic Banding Materials to mastic-band County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 1 south of CSAH 8, and CSAH 8 from Hancock to US 59. 

A donation of $125 from Prairie Medical Associates was accepted by the board to go towards the Sheriff’s Posse.