Big Sky Cheese decision again postponed

The Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment again postponed a decision on the special use permit application from Big Sky Cheese.

During the ZBOA’s July 22 meeting, county staff said they recommended postponing a decision so the public has enough time to review the additional information Big Sky Cheese provided to the county on July 11. Staff said they also wanted to schedule another public meeting on the application at a larger venue and have a full board. Two of the board’s five members were absent Monday morning.

The next ZBOA meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Additional information submitted on Big Sky Cheese project; second public hearing set for July 22

The board voted to postpone the discussion and began moving to the next item on their agenda, when Interim Planning Director Sandor Hopkins interrupted to check with county legal staff on whether they needed public comment on the motion.

Legal staff said yes, they needed public comment on the motion.

One member of the public asked where to find the additional information from Big Sky Cheese. That information is available on the county website and linked below.

During the June 27 public hearing on the Big Sky Cheese special use permit application, the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment requested additional information on the project.

No decision on Big Sky Cheese permit until at least July

The company’s principal member is Edward Friesen, who is also the principal in Madison Food Park, a proposed agricultural processing complex on U.S. Highway 89, a few miles outside the Great Falls city limits.

On July 11, the applicant provided the requested information to the county planning department.

That information is now on file in the planning office and online here.

Written comments regarding the additional requested information will be accepted until 5 p.m. July 26.

Written comments regarding the additional information can be mailed to the planning office at 121 4th St. N., Suite 2 H/I, Great Falls, MT 59401, or by email at

At their June 27 meeting, the ZBOA tabled the decision on the permit application after the public hearing was closed so that the applicant could gather more information and the board could consider public comment made during that meeting.

Big Sky Cheese gets $2.27 million bridge loan through GFDA

During the July 22 meeting, ZBOA Chair Bill Austin asked Carey Ann Haight, chief civil deputy county attorney, for guidance on how to keep the next meeting on the Big Sky Cheese application under control and when he can ask “totally disruptive” people to leave.

“I was extremely frustrated,” Austin said.

Austin said the June 27 meeting got a little out of hand and several board members and staffers mentioned they were frustrated by Larry Kralj’s physical intimidation of standing closely behind presenters for Big Sky Cheese during the meeting.

Cheese processing plant proposed as first part of Madison Food Park; application submitted to Cascade County planning

Austin said they’d do a better job next time of explaining the public meeting process to the public in attendance.

Haight said staff had follow up meetings with the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office on possibly changing the room setup and having more deputies onsite to handle any disorderly conduct.

Charles Keuther, ZBOA member, said he thought people were frustrated during the June 27 meeting because they didn’t understand the process and didn’t want to listen to the hourlong staff report before they could give their comments.

Keuther said it was new to him to allow public comment on motions since their previous board instructions didn’t include that.

Haight said a public hearing on a permit, such as the current Big Sky Cheese application, allows for the public to make broad comments, ask questions or seek clarification on a project.

Once a motion is on the table for board consideration, Haight said the public can give comment specific to that motion.

For more information and updates, go to the county planning website here.