Cordell v. Codington County, 18644

Citation526 N.W.2d 115
Decision Date20 October 1994
Docket NumberNo. 18644,18644
PartiesMartin CORDELL, Appellee, v. CODINGTON COUNTY, a Political Subdivision of the State of South Dakota, Appellant. . Considered on Briefs
CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota

Page 115

526 N.W.2d 115
Martin CORDELL, Appellee,
CODINGTON COUNTY, a Political Subdivision of the State of
South Dakota, Appellant.
No. 18644.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Considered on Briefs Oct. 20, 1994.
Decided Dec. 28, 1994.

William E. Coester, Milbank, for appellee.

Roger W. Ellyson, Jr., Codington County State's Atty., Watertown, for appellant.

Page 116

WUEST, Justice.

Codington County appeals the circuit court's denial of a building permit issued by the County to ATY Feeder Pigs, Inc. (ATY) allowing ATY to expand its feeder pig operation in rural Codington County. We affirm the circuit court.


ATY Feeder Pigs, Inc. (ATY) is a corporation owned by six farmers for the express purpose of providing a hog production operation for themselves in rural Codington County. ATY has been in operation since 1975 raising pigs from farrowing to 40-lb. feeder pigs at which time the pigs are distributed back to the six individual farmers and the surplus pigs sold to Pig Improvement Corporation (PIC), a Wisconsin corporation. PIC "finishes" the pigs to approximately 220 lbs., or market weight. The farrow-to-feeder operation requires nine to twelve weeks while a farrow-to-finish operation requires five and one-half to six months. In 1982, ATY constructed a lagoon sewer system on its site and extensively remodeled existing structures to improve them. ATY did not obtain a permit for this construction.

In 1992, ATY applied for a building permit to expand its operation from a farrow-to-feeder operation to a farrow-to-finish operation. This permit was required under § 8.1 of the Codington County Zoning Ordinances. Cost of ATY's expansion, which involved construction of a new building, was estimated at $350,000. Martin Cordell, the plaintiff in this action, lives within 55 rods from the intended expansion and objected to the issuance of this building permit due to the smell of pig manure which he believed was certain to increase with the planned expansion. Cordell's residence has been at this location since 1975. ATY's application was originally denied by the Codington County Zoning Officer. ATY appealed this decision to the Codington County Board of Adjustment where its application was again denied. Finally, ATY appealed to the Codington County Board of Commissioners who issued the permit in October 1992 allowing ATY to proceed with its expansion plans.

ATY began construction and Cordell appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court found that ATY's expanded operation was a commercial feedlot according to Codington County Zoning Ordinances and, as such, could not be located anywhere within 80 rods of an established residence. The circuit court remanded the case to the Commissioners to vacate the building permit ab initio. County appeals the circuit court's decision claiming ATY is not a commercial feedlot and, in the alternative, ATY is entitled to a special exception or variance under the applicable zoning ordinances.


We note first our standards of review in this case. We review a trial court's findings of fact under a clearly erroneous standard. In applying this standard, we have stated "we will not disturb the court's findings 'unless they are clearly erroneous and we are, after a review of all the evidence, left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.' " In re E.D.J., 499 N.W.2d 130, 134 (S.D.1993). If the record contains evidence to support the trial court's decision, we will not disturb a trial court's finding of fact on appeal. SDCL 15-6-52(a); McLaughlin Electric Supply v. American Empire Ins., 269 N.W.2d 766, 769 (S.D.1978). All conflicts in the evidence must be resolved in favor of the trial court's findings. Kost v. Kost, 515 N.W.2d 209, 213 (S.D.1994); In re Walter A. Gibbs, 490 N.W.2d 504, 507 (S.D.1992).

We review a trial court's conclusions of law under a de novo standard. State v. Harris, 494 N.W.2d 619, 622 (S.D.1993) (citing Rusch v. Kauker, 479 N.W.2d 496, 499 (S.D.1991)). Under this standard of review, "conclusions of law 'are given no deference by this court on appeal.' " Rusch, 479 N.W.2d at 499; Harding County v. South Dakota State Land Users Ass'n, 486 N.W.2d 263, 264 (S.D.1992); Beville v. Univ. of S.D. Bd. of Regents, 420 N.W.2d 9, 11 (S.D.1988).


Codington County first challenges the trial court's finding of fact no. 7, which states "ATY Feeder Pigs, Inc., is a commercial

Page 117

venture involving the assemblage of hogs for the express purpose of preparation for market." Upon review of the evidence presented before the trial court, we are not firmly and definitely convinced the court was mistaken in its finding. ATY's articles of incorporation defines its purpose as the business of operating a feeder pig producing unit. ATY is operated by six farmers who combine and place their 480 sows onsite to raise these pigs from birth to 40 pounds, and now with the expansion plans, to 220 pounds when they are taken to market by the individual farmers. ATY contracts for the management of its operation with PIC and an employee of PIC resides with his family on ATY's premises for purposes of managing the hog production operation. ATY also sells pigs to PIC. The evidence supports the trial court's finding of fact no. 7 and, therefore, we will not disturb it on appeal. That Codington County argues only half of the pigs remain onsite after reaching 40 pounds does not change our holding in this regard.

Codington County next challenges the following conclusions of law by the trial court which we review de novo on appeal: 1) ATY is a commercial feedlot as defined by Codington County zoning regulations; 2) ATY is not entitled to a special exception under § 4.1B(8) of the zoning regulations; 3) ATY is not entitled to a variance under § 9.2D of the zoning regulations; and therefore, 4) ATY is not entitled to a building permit. We will address these challenges seriatim.

Zoning regulations are generally interpreted according to the rules of statutory construction and they may also be...

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