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  Comments (1) Total Saturday Apr. 19, 2014
High Court Orders Stay in Doughnut Case
Lawsuit challenged a citizen-initiated referendum passed by Whitefish voters
 The Montana Supreme Court ordered a stay on any zone changes within the two-mile planning district outside of Whitefish, also known as the doughnut, in the latest round of the legal saga involving jurisdiction of the area.

The Dec. 10 order from the Supreme Court says Flathead County may continue to pursue land-use planning activities, except final adoption of any changes.

In granting the stay, the Supreme Court stopped parts of a July 8 Flathead County District Court ruling from going into effect. The July ruling by Flathead District Judge David Ortley struck down a 2011 citizens’ referendum that shifted full jurisdictional authority of the doughnut to the city of Whitefish.

The ruling returned jurisdiction of the planning doughnut to the county; Whitefish almost immediately appealed the decision.

Two months after Whitefish appealed Ortley’s decision, the city asked the Supreme Court to send the dispute to mediation, which the court denied in September.

In its latest ruling, the high court recognized that “the County could change the status quo (of the doughnut) if the County adopted a growth policy and accompanying zoning or subdivision resolution.”

The court also found that Whitefish “established sufficient extraordinary circumstances to justify the issuance of a stay.”

The doughnut has been a contentious issue for more than a decade. Plaintiffs in the current lawsuit argue that thousands of property owners in the doughnut hang in legal limbo due to the jurisdictional gray area, while the city attempts to apply its own unique set of land-use policies to preserve Whitefish’s integrity.

The lawsuit challenged a citizen-initiated referendum passed by Whitefish voters in November 2011. The referendum struck down a 2010 interlocal planning agreement designed as a compromise between city and county officials.

Following the referendum passage, area residents filed a lawsuit against the city asking the district court to declare the referendum illegal and void. They argued the county should maintain authority because the 2010 agreement was an administrative, rather than legislative, act, and was therefore not subject to referendum.

RELATED: High Court Denies Whitefish’s Request for Mediation in ‘Doughnut’ Lawsuit

RELATED: What’s Next for the Whitefish Doughnut?
On 12-17-13, RussCrowder commented....
“Planning” in the Flathead.  The gift that just keeps on giving!
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