Judge upholds decision blocking massive solar project in south Butte

MIKE SMITH

A judge’s ruling Friday upheld a decision by the Butte-Silver Bow Zoning Board blocking a giant, controversial solar project that would have sprawled across part of south Butte.

Lawyers representing the $250 million solar undertaking had argued that the board was unduly influenced by strong public opposition to the proposal and by the project’s potential impact to neighbors.

In an appeal to state District Court, they said the board had neglected 18 other criteria, as well as public support for the project from Montana Technological University and others, and had failed to provide adequate written explanation for its denial.

But in a 12-page order issued Friday afternoon, District Judge Luke Berger upheld the Zoning Board’s 5-0 ruling in July 2021. It denied a special use permit for a proposal to install 700,000 solar panels on land south and west of Butte’s southern industrial park to help power a cryptocurrency-mining operation.

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Even though the board focused on public comment as a key reason for rejecting the special use permit, the judge said, it did not mean other factors were not considered.

“The size and scope of this project is

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