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Billings City Council turns down $80K Fifth Avenue North corridor study

Billings City Council turns down $80K Fifth Avenue North corridor study

Fifth Avenue North

The Fifth Avenue North railroad spur cuts through the east end of downtown Billings, pictured in this December 2015 file photo.

The Billings City Council ON Monday voted down an $80,000 federally funded feasibility study of the Fifth Avenue North corridor after hearing opposition to the study from Billings Industrial Revitalization District businesses.

The vote to disapprove the study was 8-1, with Councilwoman Angela Cimmino the lone dissenter. She had moved to reduce the scope of the study to the area between North 32nd and North 22nd streets — away from the rail spur, the main concern of BIRD business owners who spoke Monday — but her motion died for the lack of a second.

Mayor Tom Hanel and Councilman Shaun Brown were not in attendance. As mayor pro tempore, Councilman Brent Cromley ran Monday’s meeting.

David Ellis, general manager at Schnitzer Steel, said the rail link “is vital to our business and our sustainability.” Two or three rail cars carrying up to 100 tons of metal leave the business via rail every other day or every three days, he said.

If the rail spur were eliminated or impaired following the study, that would run counter to the BIRD’s master plan, said Tim Goodrich, coordinator of the East Billings Urban Renewal District.

Planning and Community Development Director Candi Millar told the city council that if it chose to deny the study — as it did — “we would like direction so that can re-scope” the study. While the city council wasn’t forthcoming with any direction during the meeting, members spoke informally afterward about revisiting a scaled-down study area before the end of the federal fiscal year, Sept. 30.

The city council unanimously agreed to put off considering, until its July 11 meeting, the West End Multi-Modal Traffic Modeling Study. The city council was given an update on the study during its June 20 work session, but members decided they want to learn more about the study during the city council’s July 5 work session.

The city council voted unanimously to approve special review to allow construction of a Jiffy Lube at 741 S. 24th St. West, the former site of a Valet Today cleaners location. That building will be torn down to make way for a four-bay service station.

Elliott B. Smith, managing partner of TerraForm Companies of Salt Lake City, the preferred developer for Jiffy Lube, said the service station will result in 30-50 additional vehicle trips per day, scattered throughout the day. The company scheduled a meeting for neighbors to voice any concerns, but no one attended, Smith said.

Jeff Essmann, a Republican legislator from Billings and a real estate developer, owns the property. The approaches to the business will both be off Henesta Drive, she said.

Existing trees on the property will be left in place.

Following public hearings, the city council unanimously agreed to adopt amendments to the 2015-16 budget and approve vacating a portion of Montgomery Street near Hansen Lane.

The city council also approved, by a 6-3 count, to study an initiative proposed by Cimmino to allocate $50,000 in council contingency funds to construct a shelter at the High Sierra dog park in the Heights.

Cromley joined council members Ryan Sullivan and Rich McFadden voting against the initiative.

In past years, council contingency funds have been used to construct the gazebo at South Park and help develop the Optimist Park Master Plan, among other projects.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.

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