MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A plan to build a large hog feedlot in southeastern Minnesota can move forward, the state Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The decision by a three-judge panel affirmed a vote by the Goodhue County Board in February to approve the proposed 4,700-hog operation near Zumbrota.

Opponents of the Circle K Family Farms project, including the Land Stewardship Project and Zumbrota Township residents, have been fighting it over concerns about odors and what they contend are high levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide at other hog farms in southern Minnesota owned by Jeff Kohlnhofer and his brothers Mike and Yon.

But the appeals court noted that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, after an extensive review, “concluded that the project did not pose a risk of potential significant environmental effects.”

The Court of Appeals concluded that the county approval of a permit for the project “was neither unreasonable nor an abuse of discretion.” The three judges noted that legal precedents obligated them to review the board’s decision “with particularly great deference” and to uphold it “so long as its basis has even the slightest validity.”

At a news conference in Lakeville, Kristi Rosenquist, of Zumbrota Township, and other opponents said they planned to keep up the pressure on the Kohlnhofer family to drop the plan. They said they tried to deliver 687 postcards to the Kohlnhofer Insurance Agency in Lakeville that were signed by people from around the state, but it was closed so they picketed outside instead.

They also said they planned to run an ad in a local newspaper accusing the family of trying to profit at the expense of people living near the proposed site.

Yon Kohlnhofer said the he’s happy with the court’s decision and that he thinks the project’s opponents have unfairly harassed his family at every step of the process. He said the insurance agency is owned by his sister and that his brother, Jeff, just works there part time.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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