After years of fending off opposition from residents and clearing procedural and regulatory hurdles, Love’s announced Monday that it is abandoning plans to build a truck stop complex off Interstate 90 near Ramsay. .
Love’s said he acknowledged Ramsay residents’ objections, believed in maintaining strong ties with local communities and was not moving forward.
“For business reasons, we will not be pursuing any more travel stops in Ramsay at this time and will focus on other projects that support our plans,” the Oklahoma City-based truck stop giant said in a statement.
Jim Ayres, a Ramsay resident who led opposition efforts, said he was pleased with the decision and wished Love good luck finding places elsewhere.
“It looks like the public outcry actually influenced their decision,” he told the Montana Standard.
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JP Gallagher, managing director of Butte-Silver Bow, said the project “has caused a great deal of heartache and controversy” over the years and he expressed dismay that Love’s had gone so far before pulling out.
Residents of Ramsay fought the project as soon as it was announced in January 2017, saying the truck stop would bring traffic, noise, pollution, transients and crime to their quiet community of 40 homes and five blocks.
But they had lost every battle, including July 21 when the Butte-Silver Bow Zoning Board determined the truck stop was permitted under zoning laws. The 5-0 vote supported the county planning staff’s April 29 decision to issue final building permits.
Residents appealed the zoning board’s decision to Butte District Court and the appeal was pending when Love’s made the surprise announcement late Monday morning.
Love’s said he was “thoughtful about where we choose to locate” and said professional truckers identified the location next to Ramsay as “an underserved part of Montana for safe, clean places and well maintained places to stop while they deliver essential goods”.
Love’s said it had complied with all laws and permitting procedures from the start and noted that in light of the Zoning Board’s recent decision, construction had been permitted to resume. Excavation work began in May but was suspended pending this decision.
“Love’s recognizes that some Ramsay citizens and leaders have opposed the establishment of a travel stop in the area,” the company said. “A fundamental principle of our company values is that our sites maintain strong ties to all the communities we serve through local employment growth, career development, positive economic impacts and philanthropic support.
“We will continue these local commitments and support our valued customers and employees in communities across the United States.”
Love’s previously said the truck stop would bring jobs and business activity and provide truckers and motorists with 24-hour access to products in a clean and safe location. Love’s had 410 locations then and now has over 590.
The complex next to Ramsay was to include a convenience store, Arby’s restaurant, casino, tire store and spaces for 111 semis. A lagoon system has been planned to treat wastewater.
Representatives of Love held a public meeting at Ramsay School in January 2017 to discuss their plans. More than 80 residents attended and tempers flared as many voiced fears, safety concerns and other objections, and the fight never stopped.
Residents tried to derail the project at every step, including the state environmental clearance process, and even tried to get the Montana Department of Revenue to deny a liquor license that Love’s needed. for the casino. They also lost this round.
County officials maintained from the outset that they should follow local zoning and permitting laws and rules, and at one point the Board of Commissioners denied a residents’ request to hold a public hearing and review emergency zoning regulations.
County planning officials issued final building permits for the project on April 29, saying Love’s had met all regulatory and procedural requirements.
Residents appealed the decision to the Zoning Board, claiming the truck stop was not permitted under Ramsay’s zoning boundaries and provisions that were added to the Butte-Silver Bow ordinances in 1993.
Zoning board members said they understood why residents of Ramsay were opposed to a truck stop next to their quiet, secluded community, but said the only question before them was whether the zoning allowed development. They found that to be the case and the residents appealed to the district court.
This appeal could have been the last legal avenue the residents of Ramsay had to derail the project. Montana courts generally give great deference to local zoning board decisions, but Ayres said residents “have a good legal record.”
“I think they (Love’s) were really concerned about their chances of winning on appeal,” he said.
Gallagher said he was made aware of Love’s decision on Monday morning and had “a mixture of emotions about what it meant”.
“The only emotion was, why did they go so far as to pull out?” he said. “I am extremely proud of the professionalism of the B-SB planning department, the county attorney’s office and the zoning board in the way they conducted themselves with respect to permits.
“This project has caused a lot of grief and controversy over the location of the truck stop,” he said. “B-SB had to follow the letter of the law and not let emotion dictate a decision. Ultimately, Love pulled the project.
“My only wish would have been that they had made this decision before the last zoning board meeting when a citizens’ council was put through a very difficult decision that caused a lot of hard feelings.”
Ayres said there was still work to be done. This involves working with county officials “to make sure we get the zoning lines exactly where they need to be and clearly,” he said.