County warned to rescind the Industrial Coal Plant Site TIFF or go to court to explain why.
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(First lawsuit filed) Neighbors Sue Cascade County over Rezoning for Coal-fired Power Plant
GREAT FALLS – Today (Dec 22, 2006) 48 farmers, ranchers, homeowners, and local farm operations, and the Montana Environmental Information Center, filed suit against the Board of County Commissioners of Cascade County over the Commissioners’ decision to rezone an agricultural area that contains “farmland of statewide importance” to heavy industrial.
On November 29, 2006 the Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a rezoning petition to change 840 acres of farmland in Cascade County from Agricultural (A-2) to Heavy Industrial (I-2). The stated purpose of the zone change is to allow the construction of the Highwood Generating Station, a 250-megawatt coal-fired power plant. The rezoning would radically change the agricultural and rural character of the area. The area is near the Missouri River and is located on a portion of Lewis and Clark’s Great Falls Portage National Historic Landmark.
“We are disappointed that it has to come to this. We tried to tell the commissioners our concerns, but they didn’t listen. The law requires them to consider how this coal-fired power plant will affect our property and farming operations. The Commission just didn’t do that,” said Robert Lassila, who owns an organic farm adjacent to the rezoned property.
“If a coal plant is built in this area, I am concerned that 880 acres of prime farm land will be destroyed and I am worried about potential crop damage from pollution. This is an important agricultural area for the state. It should stay that way,” said Kent Holtz, a farmer with a dryland wheat and barley operation near the proposed coal plant.
“Cascade County adopted planning and zoning to protect the rural and agricultural character of this area. Unfortunately, it has now chosen to ignore those rules. As a result, the coal plant plans to build a rail line to the power plant across my land. That will have a real impact on my farming operations, the very operations that planning and zoning were supposed to protect,” said J.C. Kantorowicz, a nearby dryland wheat farmer who, together with his wife, own Meadowlark Farms.
“When we moved here we were attracted to the rural character of this community. The proposed coal plant, with its 400-foot smokestack, will forever change this community. The county commission was supposed to protect the property rights of those who already live here. We are disappointed it didn’t do that,” said Jaybe Floyd, a nearby homeowner.
“Coal-fired power plants require rail lines, water and sewer lines, access roads and more. This plant will emit over 3 million tons of air pollutants each year. The county is required to consider these impacts on neighboring property owners. It refused to do that,” said Anne Hedges of the Montana Environmental Information Center, a member-supported nonprofit organization concerned about the health and economic impacts of the proposed coal plant.
The suit was filed in State district court in Cascade County.
For More Information Contact:
Robert Lassila 406-727-8235
Kent Holtz 406-452-6565
J.C. Kantorowicz 406-788-0483
Jaybe Floyd 406-761-0503
Anne Hedges, MEIC, 406-443-2520