By Kaylah Stangler
Guest editorial: You say you want a revolution
Five years ago, my husband and I bought our first home in Casselton ND, after deciding we wanted to raise our children in a small, quiet, tight-knit community. I was a farm kid and my husband was a small ND townie, so we compromised and moved there to escape the rush and noise of Fargo without committing to full-blown country life. Fargo life simply wasn’t for us, but since my husband’s job was still there, finding a home so close to the FM area that still had a smalltown feel was a perfect fit for us.
We love the beautiful park and reservoir that is only a few blocks away from our home. We love our church. We love our neighbors. We love that our kids are starting to take part in school activities and sports. We love knowing that people in our community tend to look out for each other and band together to help when someone is in need. We have both said that moving here was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family; and I know this is a similar story for many others that have chosen to make Casselton their home.
Recently, however, we have started to pay closer attention to the local issues and politics in our town and have found some things to be a bit concerning.
One of the biggest issues that has been brought more into the light in the past six months is the proposed Soy Crushing Plant (NDSP/CGB) that is a multimillion dollar and internationally owned company that wants to build 0.6 miles west of our town. They want to put it right next to the park we love, right next to the golf course and the homes of many of the people we have come to know from church, community events, school, work, etc. One would think that people would be happy we are questioning the soy plant, but instead, we are called “NIMBYS.” We are treated as if we are not concerned about our community's economic growth and agriculture.
Now, before anyone comes at me with “but the free market” or “you aren’t pro-agriculture,” please realize that I, along with most that oppose this project as it is currently being presented, am not necessarily against a soy plant. We live in a state that produces 170 million-240 million bushels a year so I understand the potential perks of having a plant like this located in our state. Coming from a family that has always had its roots in agriculture, I will always be in support of our local farmers but these plants are designed to be built a mile or two away from residential areas, so it is simply too close.
The local farmers that are supporting this need to remember that while it may be an easier way for them to unload their soy crops, in doing this, they will be completely disregarding the concerns of people who have lived here long before this company was interested in the land. I will add that the farmers I knew growing up would never have treated their fellow North Dakotans as if their homes and lives were up for grabs for the right price. They protected each other, their family, and their friends in small communities like this.
Here are some of the issues that have come up that have us concerned:
-County tax abatement, state tax abatement, a PILOT program that showed no negotiations with our school board, no desire to be annexed into Casselton to avoid city taxes, etc.
Where do the deals end? It seems like they have no plans to pay their fair share for 15 years. Even if they make a donation to a local sports team, it’s a tax write-off. They even made a deal with the Cass County Rural Water to put in a pipeline that will bring in 800,000 gallons of water per day so they can force eminent domain if people don’t want to sign off on the project.
Every action they’ve taken so far is to receive deals prior to building. They stand to make 60-80 million dollars of net profit per year and they are claiming this is the only location they can use. So why is our state selling us out and practically giving it away to them? Why is this company calling all the shots in this deal?
The Cass County Economic Development Committee is saying this project is comparable to other projects of similar size. They say this is what the market dictates if they need to close the deal. We feel that we have way more leverage in this deal than they want to admit. They can start jumping through OUR hoops since we are the ones that will be stuck living with it.
-Bringing potential smell, sound pollution, and heavier semi traffic to our quiet community.
NDSP/CGB and local farmers have not gotten their story straight on whether or not we will notice a smell. We’ve been told that there is “no smell,” “a nutty French fry smell,”, “it is just the smell of money,” or “don’t worry, the winds will carry it away.”
This company has not built a plant to the west of a town, so they can’t compare their existing facilities to this one. Our city dump is located to the SE of town because prevailing winds blow any odor to the east instead of through the town.
As for sound, the company is saying the factory itself will emit 53 decibels at the first property line of a homeowner. What they aren’t saying is that we’ll need to be adding a potential 72 idling and revving semis in their staging area, a semi dumping area, and trains unloading and loading throughout the day and night to that measurement. That’ll be way more than their estimated “53 decibels.”
When it comes to the increased traffic, there will be no penalty for semi drivers that choose to go through town to use a restroom or grab a bite to eat, and two of their proposed routes for semis take them right past a school, a daycare, and a city park. We have kids riding bikes or walking to that park for baseball practice or picnics, as well as baseball games every Tuesday and Thursday night throughout the summer. The truck traffic that goes by that area is already concerning, so adding more to the equation is irresponsible and dangerous.
There was a time I would have been more open-minded and willing to hear ideas from the NDSP/CGB representatives, had they been willing to listen to and fix some of the concerns the people in Casselton have. After watching the things they’ve done to make this project move forward their way without any regard for the people they will be negatively affecting, they have shown what type of integrity they possess and I and many other citizens in this town are simply not buying it.
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