Back in 2017, Madison Food Park submitted its first application to create a food processing facility in Cascade County several miles east of Great Falls.
Included within that application were plans for both a cheese plant and a distillery.
While the cheese plant was approved, the application for the proposed Silver Falls Distillery was submitted several days ago, and is currently being reviewed by county officials.
In order to be approved, county staff will write a report, analyze application materials, and conduct independent research so they can make recommendations to the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Madison Food Park said in a news release: "The environmentally-friendly distillery will likely include a tasting room, occasional tours, and possibly a small retail/sales area depending on licensing conditions. The distillery will create up to 18 employment opportunities. The footprint of the building will be ~20,000 sf. A portion of the building will be two stories high and the overall estimated height of the building will be ~30-35 feet."
According to the Cascade County Planning Division, in the case of several submissions from a single entity, as in this case, the approval of one facility has no effect on whether another is approved. Therefore, the distillery application will be reviewed without reference to Big Sky Cheese.
Another important component in the decision process is reviewing public comment. The public comment period is currently open, allowing people to submit their concerns and educated opinions regarding the distillery. Click here to download a public comment form for submission to the Planning Division. Completed forms can be submitted in person at the Planning Division office (121 4th Street North, Suite 2H), or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandor Hopkins, Cascade County interim planning director, said, "It's not meant to be a process where people can vote on whether or not they like something or not. The purpose of public comment is to provide clear, concise, and factual information regarding the impacts of these potential operations. The best public comments that we get reference studies, actually have research information or journal articles cited in there. Those are useful for us as well as the zoning board of adjustment when we look at that."
Hopkins said there is no set date for the final decision regarding the distillery's application, and that the Planning Division tries to respond to applications as soon as possible.