According to the Cascade County Planning Board, they've received 215 community comments since January about the environmental impacts of certain types of growth, more specifically, industrial growth.
Many community members voiced they would much rather see agricultural growth such as local farms and produce instead.
Others spoke about the need for more renewable energy sources and becoming an overall “greener” community.
However in the end, it mostly came down to zoning laws.
“That's what I would like to see. Just the zoning laws loosened up a little bit,” explains Dale Yatsko, a medical marijuana provider in Cascade County.
Local business owners voiced their opinion saying the zoning laws within city limits make it almost impossible to expand and grow.
As a result, many businesses are taking their business outside of city limits.
Some community members followed the conversation by saying they're tired of seeing vacant lots and businesses shutting down across the city and county.
Others argued we don't have enough information to make an informed decision and should wait for the 2020 census in order to really see what the Great Falls community actually needs.
The conversation didn't end here with several community members bringing up medical marijuana, saying it's not only an industry that would help to grow the Great Falls, but is also a much needed one.
“The state already regulates our medical marijuana program and they regulate us really hard; which we need. We do need that regulation, so I’m just hoping that the county will accept their regulation,” explains Yatsko.
However, the conversation quickly circled back to the original problem of zoning.
“The I-2 district that they're putting us in is the most expensive property in Cascade County. It's what Calumet Oil Refinery is in and we're a medical program. We're part of the healthcare system and we should not be in that district,” says Yatsko.
While the conversation continued to go back and forth for hours, the board finally voted 4 to 2, stating the county’s growth regulations don't need to be revised; however, the zoning laws should be re-evaluated.
In the end, that’s exactly what people wanted.
“We made a lot of good steps forward, nothing was set in stone. But they were all good, positive comments and things today. I think it was a very productive meeting,” says Yatsko.
The next Planning Board meeting is June 4th.
The meeting will include new proposed zoning regulations in addition to discussing the time frame of future meetings to allow a wider range of community members to attend.