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Cascade County officials tweak cheese factory’s permit conditions after review | ABC Fox Great Falls

GREAT FALLS – Cascade County officials came together Thursday evening to discuss and decide on an appeal surrounding a cheese production factory’s conditional permit.

In early October, the owner of Big Sky Cheese (BSC) filed the appeal to remove some of the requirements listed, but county officials had the final say as to whether they would stay.

The county originally issued the permit back in September, with 17 conditions for the cheese factory to meet before it could open for business. The factory takes issue with nine of them, including limiting the work hours from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, claiming these requirements were generally difficult, vague and lacked proper reasoning.

Ken Thompson, another Great Falls local at the meeting, said he was generally neutral on the idea of a factory.

“I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that there was a real overreach on some of those conditions,” Thompson said surrounding the County Zoning Board of Adjustment’s original requirements.

Maureen Nardinger lives in Great Falls on the east side of town, relatively close to the factory’s would-be location. She said potential air and water pollution from the factory is a concern for her.

“Those requirements are very legitimate that they must be upheld,” she said.  

Potential environmental pollution, like those affecting air quality and groundwater, was one of the biggest concerns from locals when it comes to Big Sky Cheese. For now, the county is working with Friesen, the company trying to bring the cheese factory here, to help tackle those concerns.

While county commissioners disagreed with a few of the conditions, at least four will be sent back to the county Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBOA) to tweak them moving forward. Below you can find decisions on the appeal:

  • Condition #2 was modified due to worries that ZBOA was overreaching in asking BSC to send quarterly water reports to the county Planning Department.
  • Condition #3 was modified to require approval from the state Department of Environmental Quality, instead of the City-County Health Department, due to the requirements not matching certain laws in place that would allow the enforcing of that condition.
  • Condition #7 surrounding the factory’s work hours is getting sent back to ZBOA for re-consideration.
  • Condition #8 on indoor factory activities and potential air pollution was modified to add an air filter system.
  • Condition #12, that would create a road easement from US Highway 89 to the factory’s location, was rejected.
  • Condition #14 that prohibited livestock and dairy cows on site has since been reversed.
  • Condition #15, which required access roads to be wide enough for emergency vehicles while offering dust control, was reversed.
  • Condition #16, on having Friesen provide emergency secondary access, was reversed.
  • Condition #17 concerning approval from the Rural Volunteer Fire Department for a fire suppression system will receive a modification of some sort down the line.

You can find the original appeal below: 

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