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  Comments (1) Total Thursday Apr. 17, 2014
Lawsuit Claims County’s Growth Policy Amendments Illegal
Citizens for a Better Flathead files suit against Flathead County Commission
Traffic moves on Idaho Street near the Kalispell Lumber Co. building in downtown Kalispell on Friday, April 6, 2007. - File photo by Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
A local nonprofit has challenged Flathead County's 2012 amendments to the county's growth policy, claiming the process did not comply with county regulations, state law or the Montana Constitution.

Citizens for a Better Flathead filed the lawsuit against the Flathead County Commission, specifically former-Commissioner Dale Lauman and Commissioners Pam Holmquist and Cal Scott, on Feb. 12, seeking to render illegal the county's adoption of the growth policy amendments.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in November 2012 but languished until an amended version was filed earlier this month, alleges:

• The commissioners' vote to adopt an amended version of the 2007 Flathead County Growth Policy did not follow procedure laid out within the growth policy itself.

• That numerous amendments made to the growth policy do not meet the standards of public health, safety, morals, convenience, order or general welfare; That the removal of maps from the growth policy violates mandatory criteria and state law.

• The property rights provision of the growth policy violates the Growth Policy Act and the Montana Constitution.

• The commissioners failed to consider public comments and incorporate those comments into the decision-making processes.

• The amendment process violated the public's right to know and participate.

According to Mayre Flowers, director at Citizens for a Better Flathead, the lawsuit highlights the public's right to participate in an informed way when it comes to changes such as those in the growth policy.

"The Montana Constitution and the Montana Supreme Court consistently recognize that in our democracy, the people should have meaningful say and input on government decisions that impact their lives and their property," Flowers said in a prepared statement.

"This lawsuit is necessary, in part, because Flathead County ignored those fundamental rights of the people."

Holmquist said she could not comment on specifics of the lawsuit, but that she ran for commission ensuring residents' property rights and would defend the amendments.

"I believe in property rights, I ran on property rights and we're going to defend against this lawsuit," Holmquist said.

Deputy County Attorney Tara Fugina said the Flathead County Attorney's Office intends on defending the case and filing an answer to accusations, but that she could not comment further on the matters alleged in the lawsuit.

The 2012 amendments to the growth policy came after a 2011 vote from the commission to update the document. The scope of the updates would not be a wholesale overhaul of the growth plan, but rather a limited review of specific areas, such as developing a user's manual, updating maps, creating a property owner's Bill of Rights, and others.

According to the lawsuit, the Flathead County Planning Board did not make available written minutes from 18 meetings held in 2011, nor did the county provide a document of the comprehensive changes made to the growth policy throughout the amendment process.

It also alleges that the county did not take into consideration nearly 700 comments of concern or opposition about the amendments, which were submitted during a 30-day public comment period.
On 02-25-14, RussCrowder commented....
All anyone needs to know about this lawsuit filed by the radical little anti-property rights “Smart Growth” green group, Citizens For A Better Flathead, is that at the time of their adoption, the Amendments that are the target of the lawsuit were referred to as the…
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