Love’s Travel Stop planning Great Falls location

Love’s Travel Stop is planning a new location in Great Falls, at the interstate interchange on Gore Hill, contingent on approval of a sign variance.

The company has been working with the city, county and Great Falls International Airport for months on developing a travel stop at that location.

Love’s confirmed to The Electric in August that the company was exploring the location and in November, the company submitted an application for a sign variance.

That variance will be the first step in the project and Love’s is seeking the sign variance in advance of annexation of the county parcel since the company’s decision to move forward with the development is entirely based on sign variance approval.

City staff is recommending approval of the variance.

If the variance is approved and the county parcel is annexed, Love’s is proposing to a aggregate the properties and construct a new truck stop and convenience store.

On Dec. 20, the city Board of Adjustment will consider the request, which staff is recommending approval of, subject to these conditions: the variances are contingent upon successful annexation of the parcel that currently lies outside of the
city limits. Failure to annex the property shall void the applicant’s sign proposal; and the applicant shall submit the required sign permit application for review and approval.

The project site consists of two separate parcels, one of which was previously annexed into the city. The other remains in Cascade County.

The portion of the property that is in the city is zoned AI Airport Industrial and is 5.125 acres in size. The portion of the property that is outside the city limits is 2.125 acres in size.

loves map

Love’s has requested that their sign be allowed to exceed the 200 square foot maximum allowed under city code for any one sign. The proposed total square footage of the sign is 395.83, according to the application.

In their variance request, Love’s noted that the U.S. Sign Council recommends that a freestanding sign placed on a multi-lane highway where vehicles travel at speeds up to 65 miles per hour should have a square footage of 639 square feet.

The main sign combined with other signs on the property would have a total of 509.33 square feet. City code limits total freestanding sign area to 300 square feet per premise.

Love’s is also requesting a variance for the sign height so that they can build a 40-foot sign. City code restricts the height to 25 feet.

The sign variance process doesn’t address the interstate interchange. That may come during the annexation and project approval process.

The Montana Department of Transportation conducted a corridor study in 2015 that included the airport interchange.

Improvements to that interchange are also recommended in the 2018 Great Falls Long Range Transportation Plan update, but are listed as projects for the 20-year horizon.