Friday, April 23, 2021

Changes coming to North Fork plan

| March 17, 2021 6:25 AM

For nearly 20 years the North Fork community was deeply immersed in land use planning. In the early 1980s private landowners, finally, realized that if they did not plan for the future, others would plan for us. This could destroy the North Fork and our special way of living.

First step was to write a neighborhood plan.

This first step created an entirely voluntary document outlining community goals, and suggested ways of carrying them out.

Again, outsiders made it obvious that we had to have regulations to ensure that would protect the North Fork as a community and protect the property rights of landowners. This was easier said than done.

It took thousands of hours of writing and rewriting of proposals.

Hundreds of hours of public meetings and debates.

These were followed by surveys of all private landowners, and finally the county adopted our plan and the regulations we proposed. The regulations included permitted uses and a list of conditional uses. The plan and the regulations

served us well until 2020. Rekindling interest in land use planning was two separate requests for commercial conditional uses. Both requests were denied by the Flathead County Board of Adjustments after an outpouring of opposition by landowners. However, the county planning office made it clear that our existing plan needed some updating. More specifically, the definitions needed clarification to make it easier for residents and newcomers. As a result, the Land Use Advisory Committee, after being mostly dormant for a decade, was reactivated. Since the weaknesses noted by the county could be dealt with by a text amendment, the LUAC appointed a subcommittee to draft a proposed text amendment. The subcommittee reached out to the community by email, personal contact, and open meetings and have come up with a proposal which addresses definitions, conditional and permitted uses. This proposal is still open to debate, comment and change.

The LUAC will address the proposal at its April meeting. They can, and probably will, send it on to the county. This starts the formal discussion and review.

County staff will make comments and the LUAC will review them with public comment possible

and welcomed. It then goes to the county planning board (more public comment) and finally to the county commissioners for final approval or rejection. All of this will take until September 2021 and everyone who wishes may comment, agree or disagree. This will be a true community document.

Please make your wishes known.

Larry Wilson's North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.