By Jim Magdefrau
VINTON – After hearing from neighboring landowners, the Benton County Board of Supervisors postponed action on a land use change for Amana Farms Inc. The hearing was for land in Section 31, Eldorado Township. The hearing was July 12 at the service center in Vinton.
Amana Farms plans to build a commercial fertilizer storage facility on three to five acres of land now owned by Steve and Scott Thompson. It is south of Highway 30 near 23rd Avenue. This was Amana Farms’ second request for a land use change. An earlier request was denied on a different parcel.
Land Use Administrator Marc Greenlee said the proposal involves the construction of a storage tank that will hold 1.5 million gallons of fertilizer. The plant supplying the fertilizer is in operation year round, so storage is needed in the winter months. In the growing season, persistent rains might not allow for land application. Amana Farms has three of these storage tanks on its farm around Amana.
In his technical review, Greenlee stated the land is now in production. The portion that will be used is now a concrete plant and borrow pit for the Iowa Department of Transportation, during construction of the Highway 30 and 218 interchange. The soils were disrupted in that process, but were put back upon the completion of the project. The area to be used has a corn suitability rating of 68. It is a drainage way. There is no plan for water or sewer on the site. There is a farm field entrance off a dirt road. Four hundred feet of the road was graded by the DOT for use as a concrete plant.
Greenlee also gave a report from the county engineer on expected truck traffic and maintenance of that road, particularly keeping it plowed during the winter.
Surrounding land use is mainly row crop farming.
Greenlee reported that according to Amana Farms that there is an odor when that product is loaded and off-loaded.
Area landowners contacted Greenlee with their opinions and the overall thought was about the road, makeup of the business itself, and about the tanks, as well as the materials coming from International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF).
In conclusion, he said the proposed project is on farmland that is in production, but it is an area that carries a CSR of 68. The guideline for Benton County is protecting farmland with a CSR of 70 or higher. From that standpoint, this passes that particular test, Greenlee observed.
The proposed use is agriculturally related. It is on a Level B road. He added that if this was approved, agreements could be worked out between the county and Amana Farms on use of that road.
Board chairman Tracy Seeman asked Amana Farms manager Jon McGrath to explain more in-depth what their plan is. McGrath explained how the fertilizer is made and stored. They have worked with IFF since 2008. He said it is a product that is fairly well proven and there is always a demand for it. They were looking for a place to expand and saw no need to build another tank in Amana. They felt that Benton County and a site along Highway 30 would be a really good spot.
As for maintenance of the road, McGrath described it as an “as needed” thing, as they will work with secondary roads on what can and can’t be done.
Engineer Myron Parizek explained the impact of having the roadbed lower than the fields, especially with snow collection in the winter. There are also tile lines there. Grading work would need rock and dirt, with a ballpark expense of $100,000. If it’s not a harsh winter, they will be dealing with a soft roadbed. Benton County has a past practice of improving a road and having the property owners pick up half of the expense.
Neighbors of the project asked McGrath about the height of the structure (35 feet to the eave), number of tanks on the property in the future, the odor, impact on the view from an acreage, reasons a request was denied on a different parcel, impact on traffic along Highway 30 with turning trucks, impact on local fertilizer providers, demand for the product, venting, and the value of what it can do for Benton County.
McGrath stressed they wanted to provide a much more affordable fertilizer source for some of the ag ground.
One landowner next to the proposed facility felt it was not needed.
“I know you probably ain’t going to like to hear this,” Chairman Seeman said, as he proposed postponing a decision for two weeks. He wanted to investigate some of the tanks that are in Iowa County. “I would like to see for my own eyes,” Seeman said, and talk to people who live near the tanks, and investigate the smell. He also said the board has three supervisors and only two were present that day. He also asked about finding another place for the tank.
Kate Robertson, Benton Development Group, told the board she has been helping look for locations for Amana Farms. They saw this as the best option for locations. She said, “It’s growth, any way you look at it … it’s an investment into our county and it’s some job creation. That’s what we’re here to do.”
The matter was postponed to July 26.
A hearing was held for road right of way vacation for 33rd Avenue Drive in Section 24 of Benton Township. The vacation was approved.
Kirsten Nelson, human resources, met with the board regarding a HIPAA renewal with the ISAC (Iowa State Association of Counties). The renewal was approved.