Archive for the ‘Ravalli County’ Category

by jhwygirl

At least that’s how I hear it.

Round I didn’t go so well. That was due – again, “as I hear it” – to the convoluted public process: County selects certain people to sit down with a write regulations. County writes regulations. County then takes written draft regulations to public. Public feels misled about public process – after all, regulations are written and “Now you want input?” – and process goes awry.

It’s the same public process, BTW, in play with the city’s zoning rewrite. I haven’t heard of any open public meetings. Haven’t seen any advertised. (Have you?) But I know of people on a zoning rewrite committee. Again – all that is “as I hear it.”

Now – Ravalli County really has it’s public process backwards compared to Missoula. They’re holding public meetings for their county-wide zoning. It’s been going on for months. Most areas – again, “as I hear it”- are going extremely well. Darby, as a whole, is being pretty resistant. There are 7 planning areas, if I recall correctly. The planning areas are based on school districts.

Anyways – Ravalli has started these meetings with maps and outlines of the things necessary to write zoning regs and {gasp} they’re actually having the public give input as to what to put in the regs!

Then the county’s hired Clarion Associates to write said regulations – and once they’re written, the county planners will actually go back to the public with the finished product.

Neato process, right? Involve the public before you write the regulations to see what they want and then put what they want into the regulations after you’ve met with the public.

Of course – there probably are people who like to read at a 2 inch thick document of regulations and provide input after the fact.  That’s fun, right?

Me? I’m not one of them.

Are you?

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by jhwygirl

With the approval of the Rattlesnake’s Sonata subdivision last night, and today’s hearing before the Board of County Commissioners regarding JTL’s proposed gravel pit-across-the-street-from-another-gravel pit up near Lolo (the only thing that can stop that is zoning), I’ve been thinking for the last few days about how long it would be before we got county-wide zoning.

How many lawsuits will the county have to defend?

How much of Plum Creek Timberlands’ lands will be subdivided before we zone?

I spoke with a Ravalli County planner today. They are on-schedule for county-wide zoning by this time next year. Same with their streamside setback regulations.

County-wide zoning for Ravalli is the brainchild of a group of citizens who got sick and tired of unregulated growth and sprawl. They repeatedly went to the county commissioners requesting that zoning be undertaken, to no avail. Frustrated, they collected signatures to force a referendum vote, and last November a referendum was approved which enacted emergency interim zoning and required the county to adopt county-wide zoning.

The project is ambitious. I watch and follow with some amount of awe. Actual planning being done! How amazing!

The planner I spoke with is both excited and exhausted. I was told that they are all working feverishly on the plan – often working until 10 p.m. each night. “It’s not easy,” he/she said, “while a lot of the community is participating, there are, of course, a group of people that simply don’t want it. Period.”

I asked how the “takings” lecture went back about 2 weeks ago. He/she said that the meeting was extremely well-attended – more so than the zoning meetings which are also well-attended. The public was shocked, he/she said, at the information: that streamside setbacks are rarely found to be “takings”- that in order for a takings to occur, property has to be rendered unusable. Simply because you don’t get to do what you want to do isn’t a taking.

~~~~~~~~

It’s really hard to stop sprawl when you can go anywhere and ignore the comprehensive plan and subdivide to 1 acre lots. State law and legal precedent do NOT allow the comprehensive plan to be the sole and only reason for subdivision denial. (I wish that someone would have said that at last night’s Sonata hearing. It wasn’t city council’s fault. Without health, safety or welfare concerns that can’t be mitigated, they really had no legal standing to deny the request.)

Further, in some ways, we’ve got the city and the county working against each other. The city can – and is – working on a zoning rewrite. But without county-wide zoning, we are going to have development all over the place, sprawling traffic and increasing degradation to air quality. (Yeah, did you read that one this weekend?) If you can’t do what you want to in the city or out in the meager zoned county ‘donut’ – go out into the not-so-hinterlands, and go to one-acre lots. They’re hard-pressed to deny, really, in the end. And now probably even more so, considering Richards’ recent filing against the county.

~~~~~~~~

I stopped by our courthouse the other day to inquire what the process was to put a referendum on the ballot. I guess I’m not thinking that the county commissioners would put it there willingly.

A resolution would have to be prepared, presuming that the referendum would pass and the county commissioners would have to sign it. A petition would also have to be prepared. That resolution and petition would be reviewed and approved by the county elections officer and the county attorney. Once approved, roughly 12,000 signatures would have to be gathered in 90 days. The latest those signatures could be submitted would be early in August (so the elections office had time to verify that the signatures were valid.)

I took a poll around the office of both city and county residents – of course, everyone in the city said they would sign the petition. What surprised me was that every county resident, also, said they would sign it.

So I wonder – what do YOU think?

Is it time for county-wide zoning?

by Jamee Greer

There are sure some great local blogs starting on really important issues lately! I wanted to mention a blog belonging to a good pal of mine, and fellow ASUM Transportation board member, Jordan Hess.

Discovering Transit in Montana is a great site to check out, even if you’re not a planning nerd!

While we’re on the topic, just a reminder that Wednesday from 4:00 until 6:00 at the Grant Creek Inn, the public can comment on the Five Valleys Regional Transit Study – found here.

by Rebecca Schmitz

It’s been a long time since the words “packed house” and “Huey Lewis” have appeared in the same article, but that’s just what happened Wednesday. The state’s Supreme Court heard the arguments in the infamous case that pitches Montana sportsmen against local landowners. They hinged on the definition of “natural”.

Lawyers for those who want public access to the slough, which flows through private farmland south of Stevensville, said Wednesday that just because a river or stream has been manipulated by man does not exempt it the state’s stream access law. If so, many waterways and major rivers would be exempt. “There is no such thing as natural in the Bitterroot Valley anymore,” said lawyer Jack Tuholske. Lawyers for the landowners countered that the slough is really like an irrigation ditch, displaying sketches, photographs and aerial views of the slough as evidence. “Recreationalists get to recreate on natural waterways, that’s the deal,” said lawyer John Warren.

I think we can all agree that the floor of the Bitterroot Valley is one of Montana’s most heavily manipulated and developed landscapes. Beginning with the Big Ditch and the apple orchard boom of the 1900s and 1910s up to today’s healthy crop of McMansions, the Bitteroot has long since ceased to be completely “natural”. The right lawyer could argue almost any body of water in this area isn’t natural. A decision in the landowners’ favor would open the door to other waters being placed off-limits to the public. Then we all lose. If Lewis wins his case, Montana’s fishermen might just have to start singing another song, like, “I Want a New Court”.

Deadline for filing for any of the 6 Missoula City Council seats is Thursday, 5 p.m. Tomorrow.

Geez, that one snuck up, didn’t it.

There are 6 council seats open, one in each ward. Nicholson, Ballas, Rye and Childers will presumably file (or have), with Reidy and Kendall announcing that they won’t be seeking another term.

Darn if I know what other offices are open. You sure can’t figure it out from searching around either the city or county websites. That’s a shame.

And nada for the Missoulian either. That’s a bigger shame – I mean, what is the purpose of a newspaper if they can’t report something like that? Guess there wasn’t enough people to cover a story about an upcoming election – what with all the athletes being arrested and all, how’s a newspaper to keep up???

The Ravalli Republic was able to put up a story on the filing deadline. They’ve got a few openings down there – Hamilton has 3 ward seats and a city judgeship open, Darby with 4 seats and Stevensville with 2. Darby’s mayoral seat is up too.

by jhwygirl

Missoula County Commissioners voted, unanimously, to spend $304,500 of its open space bond money towards purchasing conservation easements on two properties in the Blackfoot drainage.

One was a 3,250 acre easement on Sunset Hill near Greenough, adjacent to a 4,000 acre conservation easement held by the Potter family – known for its environmentally friendly forestry practices. The plan is for the Potter family to extend its forestry practices onto this piece of land, and restore the area to its pre-1885/ Ananconda Copper Mining Company condition, when clearcutting was prevalent.

Public access comes with the Sunset Hill piece – acquired as part of a larger range project with The Nature Conservancy and Plum Creek Timberlands (part of the Blackfoot Challenge.) It was purchased for $200,000.

The second easement, 333 acres, was on the Circle Bar Ranch and purchased for $104,500. It protects agricultural lands, rare wetlands, a section of recently restored Ashby Creek and a recently discovered genetically pure strain of westslope cuthroat trout fishery.

A total of 730 acres is now protected on the ranch – with the remaining acreage placed under easement with the aid of a federal grant buying the development rights.

Since Circle Bar is a working ranch, no public access was granted.

All great stuff. The Sunset Hill was a bargain – and a hugely significant amount of land. The Circle Bar acquisition protects some very important wildlife habitat area.

I hope the Commissioners look to preserving lands further west, out towards Frenchtown, where development pressures are increasing but while there is still some ag land that hasn’t succumbed to the pressure of 5-acre ranchettes dotting the hillsides.

Same for the Clinton area, especially with river frontage properties, where rising taxes are increasing pressures on older landowners to seek out financial solutions to maintaining the property.

The Lolo area could use some help too – the recent sale of the Francis and DJ Maclay property to conservation buyers will protect a huge amount of land, but ranch properties to both the north and south of the ranch remain threatened by development. I hear there are some pretty big elk that roam the Maclay Ranch – and with the Bitterroot running through that stretch of ranches, protection of that area would provide not only protection for valuable wildlife habitat, but also one of the least impacted viewsheds in the County. The sea of lights, at night, that float out over the northern part of Ravalli have yet to migrate over into Missoula. It’d be nice to keep it that way.

So I ask: Do you have any favorite areas that you think are work some of your taxpayer dollar?

by jhwygirl 

Darn good news out of Ravalli County this morning, folks. Darn good.

Ravalli County elected two new Democrats and one Independent (and throwing out one Republican) yesterday night in a special election held to fulfill the need to meet the citizen-initiated changes to the Board of County Commissioners (which changed the number from 3 members to 5).

Howard Lyons lost just-won-in-November seat to Carlotta Grandstaff (an Independent), while Jim Rokosh (Democrat) beat Dave Hurtt’s full-of-bull (he ran under a No Bull motto) campaign.

Kathleen Driscoll (Democrat) beat Carolyn Weisbecker also. Kathleen lost in a November try, but was successful last night.

This is great news for pro-zoning people down in Ravalli County. Also part of last November’s election was a county-wide zoning referendum, which had won. This election came down to the issue of whether that county-wide referendum was going to result in real zoning, or pseudo-regulations, without teeth, that would have catered to the rape-and-pillage developers of the valley.

You can read about it here.




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