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  Comments (9) Total Wednesday Apr. 16, 2014
 
County Commission District 3: Krueger v. Mears-LaChappelle
Land use, representation major issues for candidates
Gary Krueger, left, and Clara Mears-LaChapelle. | Beacon and contributed photos
The race for Flathead County Commission District 3 is a showdown between a Republican with years of experience on county boards and a Democrat who believes her fresh perspective is just what the commission needs.

To get to the November elections, Republican candidate Gary Krueger won the primary election by 23 votes over Gerald “Jay” Scott. Democrat candidate Clara Mears-LaChappelle ran unopposed.

Commissioner Dale Lauman currently holds the Dept. 3 seat, but is not seeking re-election.

Krueger, who works in the farming, trucking and construction businesses, is no stranger to Flathead County land-use issues. Krueger said his experience on various boards – including the county’s Board of Adjustment, the West Valley Land Use Advisory Board and the West Valley School Board – would help him understand the items the county commissioners deal with each day.

The decision to run for county commissioner came after he watched the valley sink into the recession, Krueger said, and he believes better land-use policies can help the Flathead economy.

Before the recession, Krueger felt the Flathead was less-than-attractive to businesses because of restrictive permits and zoning regulations.

“I don’t think we made (businesses) feel very welcome,” Krueger said. “I would like to be somebody that can bring stability to land use.”

The valley offers plenty of amenities, he said, such as breathtaking views, and it should be the county’s goal to bring more corporate headquarters here. And Krueger said he would like to adjust the county’s zoning regulations – “small tweaks,” he said – to help small businesses.

These tweaks would include, for instance, looking at vehicle parking restrictions for small businesses, he said, because “one size doesn’t fit all” when it comes to zoning.

In this same vein, Krueger said he feels the recent changes made in the Flathead County Growth Policy, which he feels pull some of the “regulatory language” out of the document, are necessary.

There is conflicting language in the growth policy, he said, which leaves the county susceptible to lawsuits.

“There may need to be more changes,” Krueger said.

But Krueger insists he is not against zoning and planning; rather, he feels zoning should be used to ensure the health, safety and general welfare of the population. Otherwise, landowners should have the right to use their property for capital gain.

“I’m not anti-zoning,” Krueger said. “I don’t want it to overreach.”

Overall, Krueger said government should be there to help citizens, and it is important to him that when a person leaves a hearing that they feel they’ve actually been heard.

“(It’s important) that they feel that they had a fair hearing,” Krueger said.

As the Democratic candidate, Clara Mears-LaChappelle said she hopes to offer a different perspective on the commission board, which usually has a GOP majority.

“We need a new person in there with a new voice and new ideas,” Mears-LaChappelle said.

That “new person” should be someone who has not been rotating around county boards, she said, because otherwise residents are getting much of the same each election.

If elected as a commissioner, Mears-LaChappelle said she would work to promote equal property rights for all landowners, which means giving everyone a voice no matter if they own 2 acres or 200.

Mears-LaChappelle has lived in Montana since 1985, and has owned her house in West Valley since 1990. Since then, she believes the county has gone the right direction with neighborhood plans and zoning. But Mears-LaChappelle also believes the county commission can be out of touch with the residents when it comes to their desires for neighborhood plans.

“I don’t feel like the people are getting listened to,” she said.

Proper zoning and planning is necessary to maintain the beauty and character of the Flathead Valley, Mears-LaChappelle said, which is what attracts businesses to the area. She used the recent announcement that Cabela’s will be building a sports store here as an example.

“If we take that value away from this valley, people are going to go elsewhere,” Mears-LaChappelle said.

Mears-LaChappelle works full-time as a merchandising sales representative, and said she meets struggling families who need employment opportunities. If the county demonstrates that it is planning to retain the valley’s attractive qualities, businesses will locate here.

Other major issues for the Democratic candidate include investing in local children to prepare for the future, and maintaining water quality in the Flathead Valley.

As a commissioner, Mears-LaChappelle said she would be open-minded and take the time to be thorough when making decisions. Each side of an issue would get its time in a hearing, she said, because currently, “people are talking but it seems like nobody listens to them anymore.”

Mears-LaChappelle said she is running because she is in tune with what is going on across the valley, and is a “real person with real concerns, not a politician.”

The general election is Nov. 6.
 
On 10-16-12, cs1 commented....
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