Simplified: A group fighting the construction of a new pork processing plant received enough signatures to get a ban on slaughterhouses to a public vote. Meanwhile, the company behind the proposed plant believes it has found a way around the potential ban.
Why it matters
- Last week, City Clerk Tom Greco announced that the city had received and validated a petition to ban future slaughterhouses. That means the group behind the petition – Smart Growth Sioux Falls – got enough signatures to get on the ballot. Voters will get to decide in November.
- Days after the ballot petition was filed, Wholestone Farms – a Nebraska-based pork producer – announced plans for a custom butcher shop, set to open in October.
- The idea is that by opening before the election, Wholestone will be an existing slaughterhouse, not a "future" one, and thus, not affected by the new measure if it passes.
"It's a way to preserve our option to build on our site in the future," said Luke Minion, board chair for Wholestone Farms.
How did we get here?
Ok, yeah. Let's get some more background.
The two main players here – as you may have guessed – are Wholestone Farms and Smart Growth Sioux Falls.
- Wholestone Farms announced plans last summer to bring a $500 million pork processing facility to Sioux Falls in the area of I-229 and Benson Road.
- Smart Growth Sioux Falls began circulating petitions to ban future slaughterhouses back in April, a direct response to the Wholestone Farms project. Last week, they submitted more signatures than they needed – more than 10,000 when just over 6,000 were needed – to get their plan to a public vote, according to spokesman Robert Peterson.
So, what's the deal with the custom butcher shop?
Minion said the shop will be a unique offering for Sioux Falls, and the idea has been on the radar for Wholestone for some time.
- The concept is that customers have lots of choices. They can choose a farmer to purchase from, and then Wholestone will butcher the pig, and customers can select the Wholestone Farms products they'd like to purchase.
"It's a good way to showcase what a local slaughterhouse can be like," Minion said.
How does the custom shop open the door for the bigger facility?
If Wholestone's butcher shop opens before the election, the company will have a slaughterhouse open by the time the new ban (if passed by voters) would go into effect.
- The idea is – under the proposed ordinance – they'll be able to expand in their existing location to the full $500 million facility regardless of any bans.
- Minion described the butcher shop as a way to "keep moving toward that goal we've had for five-plus years."
Here's how the exception to the ban reads (per the verbiage that'll be in the ordinance on the ballot):
"This section does not apply to the expansion or alteration of any Slaughterhouse constructed and operating before the effective date of this section so long as such expansion or alteration occurs at the existing site."
The Sioux Falls city attorney did not respond to requests for comment from Sioux Falls Simplified, so it's yet unclear how the city will interpret this language in relation to Wholestone in the event voters pass the ban.
What's the response from Smart Growth Sioux Falls?
Peterson said in an emailed statement that the number of signatures received shows the "high level of concern" from local residents.
In regards to the butcher shop, Peterson said it's clear Wholestone doesn't care about the community.
"It’s a flimsy attempt to sidestep the law and ram through their project against the will of the over 10,000 folks who signed our petition," Peterson said.
What happens next?
For Wholestone, the focus is on constructing the butcher shop with a target opening in October. From there, construction will continue as planned on the broader facility, Minion said.
For voters, November's general election is their chance to weigh in on whether the city should allow future slaughterhouses.
For Smart Growth Sioux Falls, the petition is in and the measure is on the ballot, but Peterson said the work isn't done.
"Despite what you may have heard, this battle is far from over," he said.