County ZBOA approves special use permit for Silver Falls Distillery

The Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to approve the special use permit for the Silver Falls Distillery component of the larger Madison Food Park.

The board met May 28 and approved the permit with 14 conditions.

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Those conditions are:

  • obtaining a driveway approach permit from the Montana Department of Transportation and complete a traffic study if required by MDT and allow MDT to relocate the intersection if needed;
  • comply with and obtain all necessary approvals from the Montana Department of Natural Resources related to water usage;
  • obtain approval from the Cascade County City-County Health Department and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for a new public water supply/wastewater system. “The board requests the MDEQ consider requirements for the wastewater ponds to be lined. In the event MDEQ requires periodic monitoring reports of either the public water supply or wastewater system, the applicant is required to provide a copy of any such report(s) to the CCHD Environmental Health Division within 10 days of submitting to MDEQ.”
  • obtain MDEQ general permit for stormwater;
  • obtain any other county, state or federal permits required;
  • adhere to all relevant building codes;
  • outside storage must be screened to conceal work equipment or materials not stored inside;
  • no structure extends into the Height Military Overlay District;
  • outside lighting be designed to avoid light pollution;
  • install onsite fire suppression system meeting state building code requirements and obtain a letter from the Sand Coulee Volunteer Fire Department regarding the fire suppression system to ensure adequate protection;
  • comply with state licensing requirements;
  • landscaping and fencing comply with guidance from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks;
  • obtain nutrient management plan through MDEQ, if applicable; and
  • “the applicant shall be required to place meters on wells and submit quarterly reports to CCHD and obtain water rights if usage exceed the exempt well levels provided by DNRC.”

The board had submitted questions to the county attorney’s office in February, seeking determinations on the board’s jurisdiction regarding some of issues raised in comments and public hearings, but the county attorney’s office had not yet responded.

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Carey Ann Haight, chief of the civil division in the county attorney’s office, said it would likely be another month before her office was able to respond.

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One of those board questions was what authority the board had to put conditions on the surfacing and design standards of an access road from the highway to the distillery.

“I don’t think we want to get involved in telling anyone how to build a road on their own property,” Rob Skawinski, ZBOA member, said.

Application submitted for distillery, the second phase of proposed Madison Food Park

He said he appreciated the public comments and read them, but some were trying to find ways to deny permits.

A developer is going to build a road that is going to serve their business and it’s not the board’s role to tell them how, he said.

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“I don’t think we even need to ask attorney if that’s our jurisdiction, if we get involved in that now, we will have to get involved on every other permit,” Skawinski said.

Charles Keuther, ZBOA member, said if they are mandated to exercise that jurisdiction and don’t, their decisions will be challenged.

Skawinski countered that the decisions would likely be challenged either way, as they were with the Big Sky Cheese development that was approved with conditions last year. The board placed numerous conditions on the developers, also Madison Food Park, and the company appealed many of the conditions. The County Commission then revised, remanded and eliminated some of those conditions on the grounds that the board didn’t have jurisdiction. Opponents to the project have filed a civil suit challenging those actions.

Skawinski said this project has been in limbo for months and “decisions need to be made.”

He said these delays send a message to developers that will block future development from coming to the county.

“That’s probably what some people want,” he said. “We have duty to expedite these issues, either we find a legal reason to deny or we put some reasonable conditions and approve. But it needs to move forward one way or the other.”