Ramsay residents battling a proposed Love’s truck stop since 2017 with little success will have an 11-hour chance this week to derail the project or delay it a bit longer so they can take a stand in court.
Their main adversary this round is the Butte-Silver Bow government, not the Oklahoma-City-based trucking giant that has fended off all challenges, met all procedural and regulatory requirements to date, and begun excavation. last month.
A Butte state judge ordered a halt to all construction on June 2 until residents hear an appeal by the Butte-Silver Bow Zoning Board, and that’s now set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the courthouse council chamber at 155 W. Granite St.
Residents say the I-90 truck stop is prohibited under zoning laws the county approved in 1993 for Ramsay and surrounding lands. The small community of 40 houses is almost isolated about 7 miles west of Butte.
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“Ramsay is one of the only rural areas in Butte-Silver Bow County that has been zoned,” a Ramsay citizens’ group said in the appeal. “The zoning was put in place to protect the health, safety and quality of life of the community from the type of development that Love’s proposes.”
Residents wanted to detail their arguments at a zoning board meeting nearly two years ago, but council and county officials said plans for the site were not final and a location permit had not been issued, so there was nothing to appeal yet.
County officials now say most of the sprawling truck stop complex will be in an unzoned area and parts that are in Ramsay areas – mostly truck parking lots and underground storage tanks – are permitted in these areas.
Love’s also met all other state and local regulatory requirements, according to county officials, so they issued building permits and an excavation permit on April 29. This is what residents of Ramsay are now appealing on the basis of zoning arguments.
If the zoning board rules against them Thursday night, residents could appeal the decision to Butte District Court and seek an injunction to halt construction until a judge rules. But Montana courts generally give deference to zoning boards.
That means Thursday’s meeting could be the residents’ last and best chance to derail the project. Residents’, county’s and Love’s attorneys are expected to attend Thursday’s meeting, with the zoning board essentially acting as a judge.
Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores announced plans to locate a truck stop next to Ramsay in January 2017. It then had 410 locations across the United States and now has more than 530 in 41 states, including Missoula and Hardin in Montana.
Ramsay’s would include a large convenience store, Arby’s restaurant, casino, tire store and parking for 111 tractor-trailers. Love’s says it will bring jobs and business activity and that its truck stops provide truckers and motorists with 24-hour access to products in clean and safe locations.
Many Ramsay residents have opposed the project from the start, saying the truck stop will bring traffic, noise, pollution, passengers and crime to their quiet community. But their attempts to thwart the project have so far failed.
In their appeal, residents say the county is basing its areas of Ramsay on a pencil map drawn in 1972 instead of one the county sent residents in 1998. If it had relied on the correct map, say locals, all but sewage lagoons would fall in Ramsay areas which prohibit them.
But even if the disputed county boundaries are correct, the appeal says the underground storage tanks, truck spaces and other features are in an area that doesn’t allow them. And this zone, according to a 1993 ordinance, only allows local retail businesses.
County officials say Love’s has met all zoning, regulatory and building requirements and standards, including those overseen by fire and health officials, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Montana Department of Transportation.
The zoning board meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, but there’s also another project on the agenda, so it’s unclear when the Love case will come up.