Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Missoula Montana Airport and surrounding businesses could get a new neighbor if Missoula County recommends approval of a vehicle wrecking and salvage yard proposed for the area.

Justin Quist of Victor has applied to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to open a 10-acre vehicle wrecking facility on Whippoorwill Drive, located east of the airport off West Broadway.

Quist said the facility would include a concrete pad to capture fluid leaks and a modern reclamation system to hold waste oil and petroleum products for reuse or recycling. The site would also be shielded from view, at least at ground level.

Storage or shipping containers would occupy the front 7 acres of the property, Quist added.

“We're going to put a dirt berm along that fencing perimeter where we can add vegetation and trees,” Quist said. “The operation will be behind that dirt berm. With the berm, it's going to disappear pretty much. We'll also have a building and concrete surface to drain on so fluids can't leave.”

Applying for a permit through DEQ requires the county to hold a public hearing on whether the facility would “significantly affect the quality of life” of adjoining neighbors and the surrounding community.

After such hearing, which opened last Thursday, the county would adopt a resolution approving or opposing the facility. The final decision lies with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and it's Motor Vehicle Recycling and Disposal Program.

The property eyed by the salvage company is currently vacant. But Missoula is growing down the Broadway corridor into the larger Sxwtpqyen area, which will include thousands of new homes, commercial and business opportunities.

The airport also has invested tens of millions of dollars on a redevelopment plan to expand its facility and improve the airport's aesthetics. The city and county also have invested in the creation of a master plan for the area, which includes the restoration of Grant Creek.

Some believe the wrecking yard isn't a good fit for the area and what it's poised to become.

“This is a terrible place for this use,” said Gary Macpherson in public comment. “The time has come for the county to consolidate these types of sites into one area.”

The airport also has concerns over a proposed retention pond and the likelihood that it would attract birds. Rodents could also live in the wrecking facility, some believe, and attract the birds that pray on them.

“I'm sure people flying in on airplanes, the first thing you'll see when you reach Missoula is this wrecking yard. The airport has gone through great efforts to improve the look out there,” said Steve Jansen, who owns a business next to the proposed facility and opposes the plan. “With Missoula expanding, it's all going west. There's a huge development that's going to go in that Hansen ranch that's proposed.”

The county will continue its public hearing until Jan. 5 before making a recommendation.