Lawsuit filed against Madison Food Park over unpaid loans
Big Sky Cheese defaulted on their loan with the Great Falls Development Authority this summer.
Brett Doney, GFDA’s president, told The Electric in December that the company hadn’t paid interest over the entire fiscal year on their bridge loan.
In February, GFDA filed a civil lawsuit in district court over more than $2 million in unpaid loans and placed liens on the Madison Food Park properties east of Great Falls.
Doney said in December GFDA was in first position on the land, so they’re concerned but have enough collateral to recover the loan funds if necessary.
In February, he said because the loans were made with federal funds, GFDA had to file the lawsuit but are still hopeful Madison Food Park projects will move forward.
He said that bridge loans are higher risk but designed to move projects forward. Doney said that if Big Sky Cheese isn’t moving forward, GFDA could use the loan capital for other projects.
Charity Yonker, county planning director, told The Electric in November 2022 that there had been no movement on Big Sky Cheese or Silver Falls Distillery. She said no documentation had been provided for the special use permit conditions and no location/conformance permits had been issued for either project. Yonker said that there had been no movement on the slaughterhouse application.
Ed Friesen, Madison Food Park’s principal, told The Electric in December that the project “has had its share of delays and complications, especially with the pandemic aftermath. Madison Food Park intends to move forward with its plans. Certainly the GFDA loan will soon be brought current.”
Madison Food Park is also delinquent on its county property taxes for 2022.
In September 2021, 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, 2021 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.
Here’s background on these two projects:
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