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Plains Grains Limited Partnership v. Board of County Commissioners of Cascade County

Supreme Court of Montana
238 P.3d 332 (2010)


Southern Montana Electric (SME) and Duane, Mary, Scott, and Linda Urquhart (the Urquharts) sought to have 668 acres of land (the property) in Cascade County rezoned from agricultural to heavy industrial. The property was surrounded on all sides by agricultural land. The purpose of the rezoning was to allow SME, after purchasing the property sold by the Urquharts, to construct and operate a natural-gas-fired power plant known as the Highwood Generating Station (HGS). SME and the Urquharts could have applied for a discretionary special-use permit to build the HGS, but instead sought rezoning to enable SME to create a tax-increment financing district to help finance the HGS. The Board of County Commissioners of Cascade County (the county) (defendant) approved the rezoning. Before the approval, the Cascade County Planning Department provided the county with a report stating that, while the HGS would be incongruous with the existing agricultural use of the land surrounding the property, the HGS could be built with a special-use permit under current zoning and therefore would not be incongruous with the land uses allowed under current zoning. Plains Grains Limited Partnership (Plains) (plaintiff) filed suit in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Cascade County, arguing, inter alia, that the zone change constituted impermissible spot zoning. The district court held that the zone change did not satisfy the three-part test for impermissible spot zoning established in Little v. Board of County Commissioners, 631 P.2d 1282 (Mont. 1981). Plains appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Morris, J.)

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