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Letter: Board gives GNPD a blank check with turnaround

On Wednesday, the Stark County Planning and Zoning Board voted to approve a rezoning request from Great Northern Project Development to make 686 acres of agricultural land into industrial.

This was the exact same request the board unanimously denied two months ago.

Two months ago, the board members seemed to genuinely care about the concerns of the citizens in this area. Safety of the residents and school buses that travel between South Heart and Belfield outweighed “economic development.”

The idea of 300 additional trucks per day on Highway 10 (they are projecting an increase of 1,200 vehicles now) bothered them enough to agree with the residents that this was not the right place in Stark County for such a project.

The county planner recommended a denial of this request and included a list of reasons why it was not in compliance with the county’s zoning laws and their comprehensive plan.

Yet, Stark County commissioners Jay Elkin and Russ Hoff ignored that recommendation in their haste to get the zoning pushed through. One lone member of the board, Kurt Froelich, was concerned for the residents of this area and voiced his hesitations.

Even the county planner asked that, at the very least, they put a condition on the rezoning limiting GNPD to only be able to do what they stood before the board and said they will do. But it became blatantly clear that there were some private dealings between those commissioners and representatives from this company as they pushed the zoning through with no such contingency.

Without any conditions on this rezoning, this essentially gives GNPD another blank check to come into the county and do what they wish with no accountability.

Who is looking out for the lifelong farmers and ranchers that are living in the area? What else could move into these 686 acres? I understand the zoning board members live far enough away from this project area so they probably don’t share the same concerns as those who will be living near it, but shouldn’t their decision be based on what is best for the residents of the county? Zoning laws and the comprehensive plan are in place to protect the residents of the county.

It is mind blowing that two months ago, they all agreed this wasn’t the place for this project. And now, suddenly, it is?