Burger

Belgrade appears set to land the newest Wendy’s restaurant in Montana, thanks to a Belgrade City-County Planning Board action Monday night.

The board unanimously recommended approval of a conditional use permit that would allow construction of the restaurant. Its proposed location is on the northwest corner of Jackrabbit Lane and Donjo Avenue, the latter a new street that runs north of the Goodwill store.

A spokesperson at the city planning department said city approval is needed because Wendy’s plans to build in an area zoned M-1, which is primarily intended for light manufacturing. City zoning regulations allow businesses to locate in an M-1 zone with a conditional use permit. The proposal is considered compatible with surrounding development, most of which is covered by business zoning (B-2).

One more step is required before the restaurant gets the green light: final permit approval from the Belgrade City Council, which will consider the matter on Dec. 17.

“We are extremely excited about the Belgrade opportunity, the city’s growth and the way we’ve been welcomed by everyone we’ve talked to so far,” said Leah Johnson, director of operations for Wentana, the Billings-based company behind the project, during a phone interview on Tuesday.

Wentana operates 17 Wendy’s restaurants, most in Montana, with some in Wyoming and one in North Dakota. The corporation took over Wendy’s franchises in the region in 2015 from Wendy’s of Montana, started by longtime Billings developer Sam McDonald. McDonald opened the first Wendy’s in Montana on Grand Avenue in Billings in 1976. His son, Greg, later became president of the firm, which added locations around the state, including two in Bozeman.

Johnson declined to provide specifics about the project, such as the size of the building or its cost, because “we’re reaching the end of our due diligence period.

“We’re looking at attempting to break ground in 2019,” possibly in the spring but depending on weather, she said.

When Goodwill opened several years ago, people used a paved alley to access the rear of the store where they dropped off donated items. That alley has been upgraded to what is now called Donjo Avenue. Five lots for commercial use were platted on the north side. The Wendy’s restaurant, if built, will be the first occupant of that development.