With countywide interim zoning measures in place to regulate gravel mining in Gallatin County, all new pits will be required to go before the Gallatin County Commission.
But county officials are considering a requirement that would have operators of newly permitted pits go through the process as well, Commissioner Bill Murdock said Thursday.
That followed a pair of Helena District Court orders handed down in the past week requiring the Montana Department of Environmental Quality issue permits to three mining companies in spite of a lack of environmental review. The orders were based on the department’s lag time in reviewing applications along with the county’s intent to install interim zoning measures.
Currently, the discussion is preliminary in nature, but county officials are mulling over the idea of requiring any mining operation that hasn’t stuck a shovel in the ground or received an encroachment permit to apply for a conditional use permit, Murdock said. That would include the three pits in the Belgrade planning jurisdiction that received permits through the Helena courts.
“We may take the legal position that if the use hasn’t commenced they still have to go through us,” he said. “It’s still up in the air at the county attorney’s office.”
The interim regulations include a stipulation that allows the commission to deny a project if the adverse effects cannot be mitigated, Murdock said. But deny does not mean prohibit.
“There’s a subtle difference,” he said. “That option is there only under extreme circumstances. This is interim. We’re trying to bide people time, like in Belgrade’s circumstance, so they can come up their own zoning scheme.”
County Attorney Marty Lambert said the idea is under review.
“I would have to review the situation and compare it to past practices,” he said.