Archive for December 11th, 2007

by jhwygirl

I will admit I didn’t fully read through the Missoulian’s article on the proposed Lolo gravel pit before I posted this the other day. Not only did I know exactly where DEQ was coming from (after I read the first few lines), but I also knew that the Missoula Board of County Commissioners knew of the previous state legislation regarding gravel pits, and have failed to act to prevent exactly that which is proposed in Lolo.

And that was over 2 years ago.

Plus the idea that the BCC would push for DEQ to hold public meetings, I saw, as a way of passing-the-buck….all things considered when you understand their knowledge concerning gravel pits and zoning. It made them look like they were trying to do something about it – placating the public – when, in fact, they’ve not done anything for over 2 years. Blame it on DEQ (yeah, that’s who’s fault it is!)

That’s the curmudgeon in me, I guess.

So I finally read through the Missoulian piece, and I see where land-use attorney and Lolo resident Myra Shults has asked the county commissioners to emergency zone the neighborhoods that sandwich the proposed JTL gravel pit site. Seems she’s gathered signatures too – although I don’t know how many. Given the large attendance at a Lolo community meeting last week, I’d say she’s probably got more than a few.

Ms. Shults has presented the county commissioners with two petitions – one to emergency zone, the other for permanent zoning.

County Attorney Mike Sehestedt, it appears, is concerned that the petitions might amount to “spot zoning” – he is, as the paper reports, looking into whether zoning a small portion of Lolo could be challenged as “spot zoning.”

Upon hearing that, I’d think that Ms. Shults has continued to gather more signatures.

But I can’t help but wonder – If zoning a small portion of Lolo is “spot zoning” – does that make all the Citizen-Initiated Zoning Districts that Missoula County “spot zoned?” I mean, how many of those were there? 44? 45? They’re everywhere. Are those “spot zoned,” those small areas all over the county?

Here’s a page from Missoula Office of Planning and Grants (remember, Google is your friend) with information on citizen-initiated zoning districts.

I wait with baited breath, Mr. Sehestedt’s opinion………

by jhwygirl

Ahhh, the serendipity of it all. The other day, when I posted A Case for County-Wide Zoning, a few hours later, in my inbox, came copy of papers filed by John Richards in Montana’s Fourth Judicial Court right here in Missoula.

Now, some of you might remember John Richards as the developer of what was first proposed as a 219 lot subdivision up near Clearwater Junction, then what later was proposed as a 59 lot subdivision. To mitigate wildlife concerns, the second time around, he proposed a 8 foot tall electrified fence.

Well, John’s gotten more than a little upset about the two denials of his proposals.

Did I mentioned he presented them, in part, as a way to provide affordable housing?

Are you surprised?

John is suing Missoula County and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks for his denial, citing, in part, that the County “In conditioning its approval on density without objective scientific data, the County, in effect, illegally zoned the property. As a consequence, the County has unreasonably restricted Richard’s ability to develop his own land.”

The County conditioned approval of the project on a reduction of the lots from 59 to 20 lots – a 1 per 20 acre ratio. The Comprehensive Plan designation for the property is 1 per 40.

Richards defends his 8 foot tall electrified fence as a mitigative measure, saying that he “proposed constructing a wildlife fence around the perimeter of the subdivision to negate any wildlife/human interactions. FWP objected, claiming that such a fence would disrupt the natural migratory paths of wildlife, despite the acknowledgment that the area is not a wildlife corridor. FWP failed to present any specific scientific data to support its conclusions.”

Hmmm. Seems I remember something about there being 5 threatened or endangered species within a 5 mile radius of the project area. Guess that darn FWP is supposed to keep the wildlife in some sort of defined area for the sake of Mr. Richards.

There was, in fact, a whole hell of a lot of science that went into the projects review.

Maybe Richards should add Grizzly Bears to the list of named defendants.

Make no mistake – denials of subdivisions in unzoned area – rare as they are – will result in these types of actions. How much will they cost the taxpayer?

How much will unzoned land continue to impact the citizens of the county? Will we have to approve something – anything – just to avoid lawsuits of this sort? You can bet that the solution to this lawsuit will be similar to that of Ravalli’s 4 or 5 cases that it chose to settle rather than drag on in legal battles.

We’ll see some sort of subdivision approved for Mr. Richards – more than the 20 the county recommended, but probably a little less than the second attempt at 59.

That’s my prediction, at least.

I also believe we won’t be seeing any denials anytime soon.

The only thing saving us from open-season on high density development in unzoned lands would be the still-sinking real estate market (which Missoula, it appears, is still in a bit of denial).

by Pete Talbot

The topics above are too abbreviated to stand alone. So, instead of making separate posts, here’s my abridged take on some current events.

Governor Schweitzer has an electric, new message.

He was in Missoula last night for a fundraiser. I hadn’t seen him for a while so I went to hear what he had to say.

He still has it: that glad-handing, kissing babies, intimate sort of charisma.

But he has a new message, at least in Missoula. It’s not the clean coal mantra but electric. He spoke at length about electric cars, the energy to power these cars and the new, electric, alternative-energy economy, and he did it well.

Some would say it’s a pie-in-the-sky vision like coal gasification and carbon sequestration. I’ll take a clean-electric vision over a coal-powered vision any day of the week, though.

I would have liked to hear more about how this new, electric economy affects growth, transportation and sustainability in Western Montana, but it’s a start. And I’m sure we’ll hear more about it as the campaign progresses.

It will also be interesting to hear what his opponent, oilman Roy Brown, has to say on the subject of clean, alternative energy.

I’ve been disappointed on the coverage by the local media of Missoula’s most recent murder. This was a horrendous crime and deserves follow up.

I want to know more about the victim and his circumstances. How does a Missoula resident and veteran end up on the riverfront at night in the middle of winter?

I want to know more about the alleged murderers. What sort of rage prompts this kind of attack? Was there anything in these kids’ previous behavior that should have tipped somebody off?

Mainly, I want to know how this could have happened in my hometown. There probably aren’t any simple answers but I hope someone is doing some investigative reporting. Maybe if we can put a face on the victim and get some insight into the perpetrators, we can begin to understand this heinous attack, and maybe in the future we can avoid a repetition of such a sick act.

Congressman Rehberg surprised me.

As readers well know, I’m not a big fan of Denny’s. His consistent support of Bush’s policies, his total disregard for those less fortunate and his disdain for the environment are just a few of his failings, IMHO.

His statements last Friday to the Associated Press on the Republican presidential candidates, however, were a pleasant surprise and should be noted by Democratic candidates and consultants. Why is Denny plugging Rudy?

Both Jay and Matt over at Left in the West have a different take than I.

While I’m no big fan of Rudy Giuliani’s, either, I thought Rehberg had some interesting comments.

He held out no hope for John McCain’s candidacy. One would think that Rehberg would be more supportive of a fellow Westerner, and I certainly haven’t written off the Arizona Senator. What does Denny know that I don’t?

You also have to wonder why Rehberg isn’t promoting Mitt Romney, whose views seem to parallel our congressman’s. (Can you spell M-O-R-M-O-N?)

But the most surprising comments from Denny had to do with the “trust issue.”

According to Matt Gouras’ story, Rehberg said: “Montanans have a tendency to say, ‘You are more liberal than me so I don’t agree with your politics, but you are true to your philosophy, you articulate your philosophy, you don’t back off it,’ ” and voters in the state are willing to support such candidates.

Those whose positions shift, as Romney’s have, get lower marks, Rehberg said. Of the way Romney is perceived in Montana, Rehberg said, “So you look like you are changing your position to curry my vote.”

This has been a debate among political consultants for awhile: do voters prefer a candidate who stands by his beliefs and can articulate them or do they prefer a candidate who says the things that voters want to hear, whether those things change from time-to-time, depending on who the candidate is speaking to?

As the polls here in Montana start to come out, we’ll see if Rehberg is correct in his assumption of the “trust issue.”

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