Love’s Travel Stops has cleared a potentially serious hurdle to its plans for establishing a large truck stop on Interstate 90 next to Ramsay seven miles west of Butte.
The company won a procedural victory Wednesday when Butte-Silver Bow commissioners rejected a request from Ramsay residents to set a public hearing and consider emergency, interim zoning regulations that could delay the truck stop project and perhaps kill it down the line.
County officials say they are not aware of Butte-Silver Bow County ever imposing interim zoning, and some commissioners said they didn’t see an emergency reason to enact them now. Part of the site in question is unzoned.
The council heard from a Love’s project manager and an attorney for the company who opposed interim zoning, then a Ramsay resident who spoke on behalf of those who supported it. Commissioners then voted 7-5 against a public hearing that would be needed before emergency regulations could be enacted.
That means the Love’s project can move forward and the company made it clear it still intend to establish a large truck stop, store and tire center on open land, east of Ramsay.
Steve Walters, a project manager for Oklahoma City-based Loves Travel Stops & Country Stores, said they were working to obtain all necessary permits for the project from local officials and state transportation and environmental regulators.
The store and tire shop would be more than 13,000 square feet and there would be parking spaces for at least 100 tractor-trailer rigs, he said. The company has said it hopes to break ground this year and open by early next years.
Loves has more than 440 travel stops in 42 states, but the only one in Montana so far is in Hardin, about 45 miles east of Billings.
“It’s no secret we have opposition,” Walters said. “We have people who don’t like us.”
But he and Bill VanCanagan, a Missoula attorney representing Love’s, said that was no justification for turning to interim zoning laws that they said should only be used in obvious emergencies when safety and public health were threatened.
A few people who own land where the truck stop is planned, including Don Ueland, agreed and urged commissioners to reject a move toward interim zoning.
Jim Ayres, who spoke on behalf of numerous Ramsay residents opposed to the truck stop, said they at least wanted commissioners to set a public hearing first to hear both sides in more detail.
Ayres and many other residents say the truck stop would bring noise and light pollution and potential road safety and environmental concerns.
“Boy are we outgunned tonight,” Ayres said.
Commissioner Dan Callahan, whose district includes Ramsay, said residents were only asking for a public hearing to make their case for emergency zoning. They were not expecting that case to be made Wednesday night, he said.
Callahan joined Commissioners Cindi Shaw, Bill Andersen, Dan Olsen and John Sorich in voting for a public hearing. All other commissioners voted against it.