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Allow cows in the city?

Landowner Gordon Nesvig has asked for an amendment to city ordinance to keep cows on a portion of his property in St. Paul Park along County Road 75.

The request came before the city's Planning Commission on Monday, Dec. 14, for the second time.

Commissioners agreed that Nesvig should apply for a conditional use permit rather than a change in city ordinance and referred his request back to city staff for recommendations on how to proceed.

City council liaison Steve Hunstad said the property is zoned R-1 and the city is planning residential development in the future.

"We don't know what the impact of keeping cows on the property will be to the environment, the groundwater or the stormwater system," Hunstad said. "A request should outline the proximity to residential, daycare, private wells, sinkholes or shorelines and lot lines."

Nesvig told commissioners the land is zoned R-1 but historically has been used for agriculture, both crops and cattle.

"There's no need for the city council to micromanage farming," he said. "In talking with the city administrator, it didn't seem necessary to do anything elaborate because this is a temporary situation while waiting to develop the property as residential. The proposed ordinance amendment was the suggestion of city staff.

"When the developer wants to develop the property, we'll end the cattle process," Nesvig said. "The land is more valuable than holding cattle. It just didn't seem like we needed to get bogged down in the details."

Hunstad said, "We don't want to micromanage this, but that's why we don't want to make a decision tonight. We don't know the impact on the groundwater. We're responsible for the decision."

Nesvig said his potential renter plans to hold 50 to 100 cows on the property. He said there are pens and water for cattle, and manure would be hauled to another site. He also noted the existing deep wells on the property are sealed "in such a way that there is no contamination."

Once city staff has made a recommendation, a public hearing will be held.