“Engaged Citizenry” Takes on a Whole New Meaning in Ravalli County

by jhwygirl

The opening line to sentence to Ravalli Republic’s John Cramer’s latest reads “Dennis Unsworth, Montana’s commissioner of political practices, knows the term “engaged citizenry” takes on a whole new meaning in Ravalli County.”

Boy – he couldn’t be more accurate. And he sure knows how to grab a reader.

Not that Bitterrooters have a reputation for being laid back. I know many that use the term crazy when they say “Bitterooters” – the two kinda go together, going back to Battle of the Big Hole days…

In an ongoing soap opera-like saga – a story that would be amusing if it weren’t so pathetically ironic, Dan Floyd, Treasurer for Higher Ground Foundation, an anti-zoning, anti-streamside setback corporation classified as “public benefit with members” (as it is registered with the Secretary of State’s office), is calling on a host of federal, state and local agencies to take action to save his two guest houses from falling into the Bitterroot River.

The Bell Crossing bridge, he claims, is the cause.

Seriously – don’t miss the comments in that one. The Ravalli Republic has some of the best comment strings of all papers around the state. Next to, maybe the Billings Gazette. It’s a tough pick, that contest, I tell ya.

So Dan Floyd, self-described property rights advocate is calling on the government to save his property. Now, to be fair, Floyd didn’t build his house and the two guest houses – he just bought it, where it sits, next to the Bitterroot River and the Bell Crossing bridge. This is sounding a lot like the guy down in the Big Hole who bought property and is now trying to claim a hardship in order to get a variance to build a bridge. In the Big Hole case, he’s been denied – twice now, once on appeal.

You got laugh at the audacity of a person that buys property without access, with laws in place concerning bridges and streamside setbacks (the Anaconda-Deerlodge consolidated planning area has not only had effect regulations in place for years – they have a commitment to them), and then claims hardship.

More on Higher Ground: Higher Ground has been under investigation by Montana’s Office of Political Practices for violating campaign laws. There are at least 9 complaints filed over campaign issues in Ravalli County – and at least two of them are against Higher Ground.

Recently, Unsworth subpoenaed the Ravalli Republic for copies of all ads placed by Higher Ground. Less recently, Unsworth ruled that Ravalli County Citizens for Free Enterprise violated campaign laws and would face prosecution if a settlement isn’t reached.

Citizens for Free Enterprise were found to be, effectively, a front for Wal-Mart, who was seeking to reverse zoning regs which prohibited big box stores. They were successful in overturning the regulations – yet eventually withdrew their plans.

The whole situation down there is very unfortunate – collectively, Higher Ground, along with the Bitterroot Building Association and Residents for Responsible Land Use quite arguably had an impact on voters who recalled the county-wide zoning referendum. This, after significant hours and $ costs to taxpayers – not to mention public involvement.

What worse, is that each of these organizations has multiple charges filed against them. Hell, maybe someone should file RICO charges against them all if they’re found in violation.

The ugly side of what the situation in Ravalli County shows is that big money can buy lots of influence – the repercussions will be long in coming for the perpetrators, yet the sufferings of the electorate will be instantaneous.

How do you get justice out of that?

Floyd (& friends – you can bet Tom Robak is one of ’em) are under investigation for violating laws associated with his campaign against streamside setbacks, yet he seeks justice for the very issues under that which he campaigned against.

How completely ironic is that?

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  1. the only thing i see engaged here is money, money, and more money. the “citizenry” is too shell-shocked from the bush-crash to even think straight. there has always been a very right wing bully crowd in the bitterroot and the people they bully are good honest folk who are tired of trying to make a living in a hard-scrabble place. it is a mess in the bitterroot these days and hard times getting harder is the last thing working folks need there.

    rich bullies with money who take advantage of misfortune to feather their nests politically by wiping out zoning while a populace is too distracted just trying to survive sickens any decent person. i hope they throw the book at them.

  2. Lucky

    “He [Floyd] said the county’s proposed streamside setbacks and the state’s proposed Big Sky Rivers Act setbacks wouldn’t affect his property, where the guest house closest to the river is still beyond the widest proposed setback.” “If it was a natural erosion of the riverbanks, then that’s the way it is…”

    Jeepers, I love it! I’m just sorry you got to it before I did. I just hope somebody is there to get photos of the first guest house in the river.

  3. It almost sounds like the Three Little Pigs, with the river being the big bad wolf.

    To bad the house isn’t made of rock, one less load of rip rap to be hauled in…

  4. goof houlihan

    I thought it read, “Enraged Citizenry”. Which seemed to be the case when I drove down the Bitterroot with all the “Stop Zoning NOW” signs hanging from every fence.

    If Meagher county or Ravalli county doesn’t want zoning, I don’t think Bozeman or Missoula should second guess the citizens. I’d say something about being a bit too much holier than thou…but I have to say those bozos that allowed that giant subdivision in Broadwater that was so bragged about at the New West conference should be on the hook for every penny of that infrastructure…heh heh.




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