Growth smoke, but no fire

| July 07, 2005

Last week, we ran a story about the incivilities of Flathead County’s mid-’90s attempt to write a new growth policy, and how an advertisement by American Dream Montana placed on the back page of the Daily Inter Lake appeared to be setting the same tone by, among other things, saying that county commissioners were hijacking the policy.

Another full-page advertisement by the same group in this Sunday’s paper showed a photo of commissioner Joe Brenneman with the words, “Your job threatened by: ‘Green’ Agenda.” The ad went on to blast Brenneman’s “radical proposal” calling for a moratorium on future growth policy amendment applications until a new growth policy can be written.

In fact, all three commissioners discussed the prospect of a moratorium at a June 28 meeting, as a possible way to free up the county planning office to write the growth policy.

The advertisement called on citizens to attend the commissioners meeting of Tuesday, July 5, which turned out to be surprisingly civil. Although most who came and spoke were against an absolute moratorium, the majority agreed that something needed to be done to decrease the county planning staff’s workload.

According to Commissioner Gary Hall, the county planning staff has already worked 340 hours of overtime since January, but perhaps Brenneman described the situation best: “It’s a little bit like overhauling an engine while the engine’s running,” he said.

Some who spoke at the meeting suggested a moratorium only on amendments that would change the use of a property—from agricultural to urban residential, for instance. Other suggestions included a lottery, or the possibility of allowing only one change per month.

In the end, all three commissioners voted to have the county planning board study the issue and present a plan for relieving the planning staff at the board’s July 13 meeting. Until then, according to a resolution passed by Brenneman and Hall, amendment applications submitted between now and the 13th will be subject to the moratorium decisions to be announced later.

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