Group to discuss proposed change in permit reviews

December 19, 2018

The Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting Thursday to address whether or not its members should be allowed to make conditional-use permit recommendations to the Flathead County Board of Adjustment.

The meeting was scheduled after the county Commissioners cast a unanimous vote last week to have the county attorney review the matter, and also suggested it receive public input.

The vote was spurred by Commissioner Gary Krueger, who while reviewing a proposed bylaw amendment from the committee, instead argued they shouldn’t have a role in influencing the approval or denial of permits.

The Bigfork committee currently reviews applications submitted to the county Planning and Zoning Department. After evaluating the application, the six-member committee then makes recommendations to the Board of Adjustment as they see fit.

But Krueger believes input from the committee is not necessary, and stated the board should act as an information “vacuum” of sorts.

“That board is a judge in a way, and they weigh the evidence and what they can do and what they can’t do and so they should not be given evidence ahead of that hearing,” Krueger said.

Krueger also took the issue a little further to Lakeside, citing how the community’s Land Use Advisory Committee has been denied the ability to make recommendations to the board multiple times.

“This is also an issue of fairness,” Krueger said. “Bigfork shouldn’t be able to make these decisions if we’ve told Lakeside that they can’t.”

Commissioners Pamela Holmquist and Philip Mitchell agreed, stating they didn’t want to “pick and choose” which committees can recommend to the board and which cannot.

However, Shelley Gonzales of the Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee, said the group is vital to the decision-making process and acts as a liaison between county commissioners and Bigfork residents. She believes eliminating the committee’s ability to provide input on conditional-use permits would “gut” any say residents have in maintaining growth in their unincorporated area.

“It just seems that when there is something that is contentious, they just want us to go away,” Gonzales said.

The Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at Bethany Lutheran Church, 8559 Montana 35 in Bigfork. The public is encouraged and welcome to attend.

Kianna Gardner may be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com

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