County approves permit extensions for Big Sky Cheese, Silver Falls Distillery

The Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment approved 24-month extensions of the special use permits for Big Sky Cheese and Silver Falls Distillery, both components of the proposed Madison Food Park project between Great Falls and Belt.

The board considered both extension requests during their Sept. 16 meeting.

The county Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the special use permit for Silver Falls Distillery in May 2020 and the approved the SUP for Big Sky Cheese in August 2019, with 17 conditions.

The developer, Madison Food Park, appealed some of those conditions and the County Commission adjusted them. But locals took the issue to court and the district court ruled against the county in November so the conditions revert to those of the ZBOA from 2019.

The county reissued the notice of conditional approval on Dec. 10, 2020 for the Big Sky Cheese SUP, which was set to expire Dec. 10, 2021.

In a letter to the county planning department, Ed Friesen, the managing member of Big Sky Cheese and Silver Falls Distillery, wrote that “we are presently working to address and resolve the SUP’s conditions of approval. Some of these conditions require permitting from Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality, and the review and approval processes associated with the permits are anticipated to take many months to complete. Further complicating the schedule during the past ~18 months has been the owner’s ability to conduct normal business affairs related to the project as a result of travel restrictions.”

With the ZBOA approval, the Big Sky Cheese permit has been extended to Dec. 10, 2023.

The permit for Silver was set to expire in June 2021 and the owner requested a six month extension, which was set to expire November 2021. With the ZBOA approval, that permit has been extended to Nov. 29, 2023.

During the Sept. 16 meeting, Joe Murphy of Big Sky Civil and Environmental, the local firm on the project, said that “as you can imagine with a project this size and the complexities involved and working through the various regulatory bodies, it’s been a challenge,” and more so with the pandemic.

Brett Doney of the Great Falls Development Authority said they’re working with the two projects on financing and “unique permitting issues.”

He said, “the pandemic has just set us way back.”

There was no other public comment on either request.

Here’s background on these two projects:

Business Bites: New Starbucks location; Child Bridge office; Greystone Inn construction; Big Sky Cheese/Silver Falls Distillery update; Rise Athletics gets bid to world championships; Voyagers add military tickets; Foothills students place at video competition

District Court rejects County’s revision of Big Sky Cheese permit conditions

ZBOA meeting set for reconsideration of Big Sky Cheese permit condition

Commissioners modify, reverse and remand conditions on Big Sky Cheese from zoning board permit approval

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

Montanans for Responsible Land Use submit letter to county contesting Big Sky Cheese appeal

County Commission to consider Big Sky Cheese appeal on Nov. 21

County ZBOA approves special use permit for Silver Falls Distillery

County ZBOA delays decision on permit for distillery proposal in Madison Food Park

Big Sky Cheese files appeal over some of ZBOA’s conditions on permit approval

County ZBOA approves Big Sky Cheese permit, with conditions

Big Sky Cheese on Aug. 28 county zoning board agenda

Big Sky Cheese decision again postponed

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

No decision on Big Sky Cheese permit until at least July

Big Sky Cheese hearing set for June 27

Big Sky Cheese gets $2.27 million bridge loan through GFDA

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

County responds to city request for study of Madison Food Park proposal

City Commission to consider resolutions asking state, county to study potential impacts of proposed Madison Food Park

City looking at options to evaluate potential impacts of proposed Madison Food Park

Council of Councils discusses Madison Food Park; Council 4 joins Council 5 in asking city to study potential impact

Madison Food Park application on hold for next six months

GFDA makes emails related to Madison Food Park available for public viewing

Madison Food Park developers take questions at Great Falls neighborhood council meeting

County planning still processing Madison Food Park proposal; water rights process not yet begun

Friesen Foods working through development plans for proposed Madison Food Park

Madison Food Park development updates

Food Park developers amending application, hearing delayed 

Public meeting for food processing plant postponed to December

Flier distributed during slaughterhouse meeting catches attention of CCSO

Major agri-business complex planned for Cascade County, with potential for 3,000 new jobs