The elevator leg on the Loren and Pam Danner farm is used to move grain in and out of a dryer and five bins. The leg was constructed in June 2013.
The elevator leg on the Loren and Pam Danner farm is used to move grain in and out of a dryer and five bins. The leg was constructed in June 2013.

June 19, 2017

A farmer east of Carroll must modify or remove a grain-distribution tower because it protrudes into the local airport’s protected airspace, a judge ruled on Friday.

Farmer Loren Danner put up the tower in 2013 at a cost of about $300,000. It sits atop a hill about 1½ miles south the south end of the main runway at the Arthur N. Neu Municipal Airport and is about 60 feet too tall.

Danner sought permission to build the tower from the county’s zoning administrator, who signed off on the project because he thought it was covered under an agricultural exemption. Both were unaware Danner also needed a variance from the county Board of Adjustment.

“I’m caught between a rock and a hard place,” Danner testified at a trial in March.

The cost to remove and replace the tower is nearly $450,000, Danner has said.

He and Greg Siemann — a pilot and airport commissioner who testified that the tower “is eventually going to kill someone” — have said the county is partly at fault, but county officials have refused to help pay to remove or modify it.

Danner had threatened to sue the county if a judge ruled against him.

“In this case the Danners did make an effort to gain correct authorization to construct the grain leg,” District Judge William Ostlund wrote in his Friday ruling. “However, they did not contact the correct authority. ... The grain leg constitutes a nuisance under the Iowa Code and the Danners must abate the nuisance by altering or removing the grain leg to comply with the zoning ordinances.”

The tower helps move grain between Danner’s trucks and bins. It’s possible to replace it with a shorter tower, but he will need to install more conveyers because a shorter tower can’t use gravity as effectively. The replacement system will be more expensive to install and operate, he has said.

Danner could not be reached to comment this morning for this article. He can appeal the judge’s decision.

He has a separate pending civil case in which he is asking a judge to reverse the decision of the Board of Adjustment to reject his request for a variance, which he made about a week before the March trial. It’s unclear when that case will conclude.