It was standing room only in the Courthouse Annex as Cascade County Commissioners motioned to appoint two new members to the Zoning Board of Adjustments.
The appointments were unique from the other vacancies because members of the Zoning Board of Adjustments have decision-making power.
Eighteen applicants applied for the two open spots, which is an unusually high number for such a position.
The Commission motioned to appoint Charles Kuether, who currently resides on the Planning Board, and Trent Short.
Those who attended the meeting as well as other board members were concerned about applicants who may have already formed an opinion on the Madison Food Park proposal.
County Commissioner Jane Weber wondered whether the Commission should be notified of any applicants who have already provided comments on Madison Food Park.
"Because that's indicating that they have taken a position in advance of any kind of planning, staff report, and dialog," she said. "To me, I'm uncomfortable with that and I want to be very clear whether they have commented pro or con on this issue."
Friesen acquired approximately 3,018 acres of undeveloped real estate located about 8.3 miles southeast of Great Falls. The project will include a processing plant for cattle, pigs, and chickens, and the related further processing facilities for beef, pork, and poultry.
The project will also incorporate facilities for the processing of milk, supplied by local and regional dairy producers into a variety of cheese products; and a distillery which will source the grain necessary for the production of Montana-branded spirits from cereal crops grown in the region.
Developers expect that when the project is fully operational, it will directly create about 3,075 jobs, along with as many as 85 supporting jobs in the surrounding community.
Western Livestock Auction officials say the Golden Triangle relies on agriculture. General manager Lynn Perry says the plant could provide more competition, which helps the industry grow. He says the new plant could also reduce freight costs for area producers who currently send their livestock to other states.
"Great Falls, in this Golden Triangle, we thrive on agriculture, it's our bread and butter and this works right in with us. More people to buy our product, the better, and it just helps agriculture in general," Perry said.
Some concerned residents say they are skeptical about the possibility of the plant and the problems it could create for area residents.
Cascade County resident George Nikolakakos says he worries the park will have a high turnover rate, create traffic and odor issues, and hurt property values. He believes the area will see an influx of workers that would take a toll on local communities and institutions.
"That's my primary concern is the tax it will create on our institutions, and I don't see the economic investment being worth it, most likely," said Nikolakakos.
For more information, click here to read the submitted planning documents.