city hall

The Belgrade City Council approved an annexation request Monday from a cookie manufacturer but the company’s ability to set up shop and start churning out its product may not happen soon enough due to a bureaucratic snafu.

Rich Powell, co-owner of Montana Cookie Company along with his wife, purchased a 2.5 acre lot three months ago in the Belgrade North Business Park north of Glider Lane along the east side of Jackrabbit Lane to expand his ever-growing business. At the time, he was unaware he wouldn’t be able to hook up to city services until the new sewer plant is online in two years.

“This is a major disappointment,” Powell said, adding later “We were fired up. We were going to break ground in June. 2021 is a major, major issue.”

City Manager Ted Barkley said state rules are orchestrating the hold up. A Montana Department of Environmental Quality mandate limits the city’s ability to offer sewer services by the number of projects approved.

For instance, if a large subdivision has 1,000 lots, the city has to include the project in its overall sewer capacity even though the development will be built in phases and full build out won’t be completed for more than a decade. And that’s what happened to the city.

There are three large subdivisions on the city’s northwest side along with a major commercial development at the airport Interstate-90 interchange, according to city records. There are numerous other projects as well leaving the city with roughly 75,000 gallons per day left in sewer capacity.

If the city pushes it, DEQ has the ability to quash any new building permits effectively shutting down Belgrade’s growth, city engineer Keith Waring said. The city barely received a variance from the state to keep the sewer flowing.

“Being not in compliance will result in stopping building permits,” he told the council.

There’s little the city can do at this point, Barkley said.

“Everybody is better off if we play by the rules,” he said.

The city is currently working with DEQ and the company to find a solution.