A gravel company is resurfacing a nearly 10-year-old lawsuit against Gallatin County, alleging the county wrongfully denied its permit to build a driveway to access a mining site in the Manhattan area.

Nog, LLC, a Churchill-area gravel company, is asking a Gallatin County District Court jury to hold the county liable for not issuing the permit back in 2008. A trial began Monday in District Court Judge John Brown’s courtroom.

The county initially granted the driveway permit to Nog in 2007 with an expiration of 90 days, but no action was taken because it was waiting for a mining permit from the state Department of Environmental Quality. Nog hadn’t received the DEQ permit in that timeframe, so it applied for the county permit again, but was denied because county officials said the company needed the DEQ’s mining permit.

In a separate case, Nog won a lawsuit in May 2008 against the DEQ in Lewis and Clark County District Court to receive its permit and start its mining operation in Gallatin County.

Once it received the permit from the DEQ, it again applied for the county permit but was denied because the county said it had imposed temporary zoning regulations in the area off Highline Road.

Then, in 2009, Judge Brown ruled the county had to issue the access permit after an initial lawsuit.

During the trial’s opening arguments Monday, Ryan Jackson, attorney for Nog, said the county had a legal duty to issue the permit. Jackson said denying the permit prevented the gravel company from doing any work. The company, he said, was following the rules and suffered by not being able to access its property.

“Plain and simple, Gallatin County didn’t want them mining that property and they were going to use whatever mechanism they could to stop it,” Jackson said.

Erin Arnold, deputy county attorney, said the county wanted zoning regulations to get public comment on the mining operation and its impact, not to prohibit mining. She said the county adopted zoning regulations to require conditional use permits for mining, and that the developers were aware of the shift.

“The evidence shows that, despite the issue of the encroachment permit, that delay did not cause Nog damages,” Arnold said.

She said after the company got the permit in 2009, it voluntarily waited three years to start mining on the property.

Nog is asking the jury to only decide whether the county is liable. Nog would have to seek money for damages in a separate lawsuit.

The trial is scheduled to continue through Wednesday.

Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at fmonares@dailychronicle.com.

Reporter

Freddy Monares covers politics and county government for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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