County responds to city request for study of Madison Food Park proposal
This story was updated at 2 p.m. June 9 with information regarding the lawsuit filed against Cascade County related to the Madison Food Park.
Cascade County responded last week to the City Commission’s March resolution requesting that the county study the Madison Food Park proposal.
In a June 2 letter, addressed to City Manager Greg Doyon, county commissioners wrote, “while no doubt well intended, the resolution raises a number of issues regarding correct and legal processes in regard to the regulation of countywide zoning.”
In March, City Commissioner Mary Moe presented a resolution asking that “Cascade County require a coordinated, comprehensive study to identify, analyze, and, if necessary, require mitigation of the direct, secondary, and cumulative impacts of the entire package of Madison Food Park proposals, should the core proposal involving a feedlot, meat packing plant, slaughterhouse, and/or rendering plant advance to the county for permitting,” according to her agenda report.
The City Commission passed a similar resolution asking the state to study the proposed food processing complex, but the city has received no word from the state, Doyon said. The Electric also asked if the governor’s office had received the request or had any comment and has not yet received a response.
In December , the group Montanans for Responsible Land Use filed a lawsuit in Cascade County district court against Cascade County regarding their handling of the public process while considering a special use permit for the Big Sky Cheese component of the Madison Food Park.
The case had been assigned to Judge Elizabeth Best, who in May recused herself and asked a district court judge in Polson to take the case. Last week, Judge James Manley accepted the case.
The effort to draft a resolution asking the county to study the proposed Madison Food Park in its entirety started last fall by Neighborhood Council 5 and other neighborhood councils followed suit.
In their letter, County Commissioners wrote, “it is interesting to note that none of these Neighborhood Councils or City Commissioners for that matter chose to follow the correct process by attending the county Zoning Board of Adjustment meetings that deals with these issues. Instead, a resolution was passed that attempts to assert jurisdiction well beyond the city’s boundaries. Further, the resolution calls on Cascade County to exercise authorities not granted to it by Montana state law.”
Some City Commissioners and Neighborhood Council members did attend county zoning board meetings and some offered comment on the proposals during those meetings.
In their letter, the county writes, “it is also important to note that the proposal that you are addressing in your resolution remains in a suspended draft status which may or may not ever move forward. In regard to the impact on schools, housing, law enforcement and fire suppression, our regulations require that we solicit statements of impact from all of the entities that may provide these services. In summary, the city’s timely response to our requests for demonstrable impacts on the city to a project outside city limits is always welcome, but we lack the legal authority to require the applicant to perform an impact study at our behest, and lack the funding to invoke a study akin to the Montana Major Facility Siting Act that you have requested. The state entities that are required to be involved in the permitting of this proposed facility have the authority to invoke the use of that process, but it does not lie within the Cascade County Commission’s lawful authority. Accordingly, your request that we initiate a study of this nature is not granted.”
Last month, the ZBOA approved a special use permit for the Silver Falls Distillery component of the proposed Madison Food Park with multiple conditions. Last fall, the Big Sky Cheese component was approved.