Wholestone court fight could go to trial after November election

The fight over Wholestone Farms’ proposal to build a $500 million pork processing plant in northeastern Sioux Falls could go to trial after the November election, Judge Sandra Hanson said Wednesday morning.

More: Judge rules in favor of Sioux Falls' anti-Wholestone group, permits may be rescinded

That’s not a total loss for Smart Growth Sioux Falls, the group opposing the plan both in court and on the Nov. 8 ballot.

But it came alongside Hanson saying she felt there weren’t any legal measures at her immediate disposal, despite her ruling last week the city should not have been permitting Wholestone’s “custom slaughterhouse” once Smart Growth Sioux Falls’ slaughterhouse ban had made it to the ballot.

Wednesday morning’s hearing was the second associated with the lawsuit, filed by Smart Growth Sioux Falls against the city, Mayor Paul TenHaken and the members of the Sioux Falls City Council, as well as Wholestone.

At the first hearing, Hanson told Smart Growth Sioux Falls she likely would have granted a motion for preliminary injunction, had the city not already granted all the necessary permits, one of which was just days before.

More: Pork plant plans to open 'custom slaughterhouse' before vote that could shut them down

Instead, she gave the group time to amend their complaint to seek a writ of mandamus, a judicial order that would require the wrongfully-given permits to be rescinded by the city.

But Wednesday morning, Hanson said she concurred with a claim made in a briefing from Wholestone, citing several previous cases, one in which the South Dakota Supreme Court had said that “mandamus is inapplicable to undo an act already done in violation of public or official duty.”

Where that left them, Hanson said, was a mandatory injunction, which would also serve to undo what the city had already done. But that was something that would need a trial, witnesses and evidence. And that wasn’t going to take place before the Nov. 8 election.

Hanson said the parties could make their respective cases to the voters. If the slaughterhouse ban is voted down, it’ll be a moot point. But should voters approve the ban, a full trial could be on the table.

More:Your Sioux Falls ballot guide to the slaughterhouse ban question, Wholestone Farms

Attorneys for both sides spoke about the possibility after the hearing. Sean Simpson, representing Wholestone, said they had been “validated” in court, and maintained nothing the city has done was been in violation of the law.

Still, he said, he suspects whatever happens, they'll be back in court, because "there’s certain individuals in town that don’t want us."

"I think what we tried to do was follow the law," he said. "They’ll find a way to frustrate us again.”

Brendan Johnson, an attorney for Smart Growth Sioux Falls, disputed Simpson’s claim there had been no violations of law, and said Hanson was looking for more information.

"Where I would agree with Wholestone, is we’ll be back in court again," Johnson said.

In a statement, Wholestone Board Chairman Luke Minion said "As previously stated after last week’s hearing, the permits issued by the City remain valid. Despite the repeated claims of Smart Growth, there is no evidence that the City or Wholestone violated any statute or rule. Wholestone has followed all applicable rules and will continue operations as planned. Wholestone looks forward to working in, and contributing to, the community of Sioux Falls."

A ribbon cutting event for Wholestone's "custom slaughterhouse" is set for Oct. 25, according to the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce's calendar.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Wholestone court fight could go to trial after midterm election 2022