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Commission Adopts Growth Policy Changes
Changes include property owner’s bill of rights
The Flathead County commissioners voted unanimously last week to accept the changes made to the Flathead County Growth Policy.

The changes come courtesy of a two-year process during which the Flathead County Planning Board worked on updating the document, which was originally adopted in 2007. After three and a half years, the county decided to update it.

The planning board presented the county commission with a work plan, which the commission OK’d two years ago. After 21 public workshops with all the changes posted on the county’s website, the planning board compiled the first final draft in January 2012.

Once they held another public meeting, the planning board went back to work, completing the second final draft in April. Some of the largest changes included a chapter on sand and gravel resources and removing language that gave the impression the document was regulatory. The planning board also added a property owner’s bill of rights.

Commissioner Pam Holmquist said she was pleased with the changes, and addressed the concerns she heard from local residents and groups about changes that could affect water quality and the new bill of rights.

First, for water quality, Holmquist said there are already 26 agencies in place to ensure water quality in the Flathead, as well as the local health department. She said she didn’t think it was necessary to have an extra layer of government in this area.

The property owner’s bill of rights gives landowners the reasonable expectation of due process, Holmquist said.

“Who wouldn’t want due process or fair and equal treatment?” she asked. “We all have a right to that process.”

Commissioner Dale Lauman said he had heard concerns from the public about irresponsible development in rural areas of the county, but noted that a good percentage of the county is not zoned and those property owners can do whatever they want with their property right now. The only way that would change would be to zone the land, he said, but he didn’t think zoning all of Flathead County is feasible.

Lauman supported the changes to the growth policy, and reminded the public present at the meeting that it was not set in stone and can be changed in the future as well.

“I think it addresses the issue we have at hand,” Lauman said.

Local nonprofit group Citizens for a Better Flathead opposed the changes in the growth policy, and issued a statement following the commission’s vote that said the commissioners “abdicated their responsibility as elected officials to keep in place policies that are designed to safeguard water quality, to conserve transportation infrastructure, and to insure that our valley grows in a way that recognizes that the quality of our environment is our greatest economic resource.”

The group’s statement also said the language in the property owner’s bill of rights that allows it to trump all other policies “further erodes the remaining policies that address protection of water quality and future growth.”

For a full timeline of the growth policy changes and the new document, visit www.flathead.mt.gov/planning_zoning.
On 10-29-12, Durpster commented....
Mr. Crowder, it was the Heffernan case to which you were referring (just had to look it up for another project). All the Supreme Court said was what the MCA already says, and that is that the governing body must ‘be guided by and dive due…
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@tristanscott *Billie Joe
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