BILLINGS – Yellowstone County commissioners unanimously approved Tuesday the zoning for a proposed gravel pit in West Billings.
FirstMark Materials has plans to operate the project on the land on wise Lane and Story Road, near Oscar’s Park.
Commissioner John Ostlund said despite concerns from residents, they could not prohibit FirstMark from using the un-zoned land for a gravel pit.
“On un-zoned property, there are a lot of things that are allowed, and gravel mining is one of those things,” said Ostlund. “Both our legal team and planning staff have said we don’t have the ability to regulate that – that’s regulated through the (Montana) Department of Environmental Quality.”
The project will still have to go through more steps and approval through the DEQ before developers could start work.
Since the announcement of the project, residents have protested, citing concerns about traffic, flooding, ground water and decrease in property values.
In their decision, the commissioners attempted to address some of those issues with conditions to the approval, including a mandated route for all trucks to take to help alleviate traffic concerns.
According to the amendment, trucks would have to exit on Wise Lane and turn right to get on the Shiloh overpass and then the interstate. Trucks would not be allowed to use Story Road or the Frontage Road.
Despite the conditions, many residents said Tuesday they remain concerned.
“It’s gonna be scarred for generations,” said Scott Prociv, an area resident. “There is no timeline. They say 10 to 15 years, but it’s going to be more like 30 or 40 years. When you look at Billings, that’s the last piece of property that we can all take a breath – look at – and say let’s do the right thing, let’s do the right thing.”
FirstMark business development manager Ed Walker has said the project is expected to last 12-15 years, and then the company plans to restore the land to include a lake for the owners of Oscar’s Park to develop.
Reporting by Samantha Sullivan for MTN News