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Dietz also ordered to pay attorney fees in Whistlestop case

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | June 22, 2022 7:55 AM

Flathead County District Court Judge Amy Eddy on June 15 ordered Dr. Susan Dietz/GM Trust, the owners of the Whistlestop Retreat, to pay just over $14,000 in attorney fees and an additional $1,878 in court costs to Friends of Lake Five.

Flathead County had already agreed to a settlement in the case and agreed to pay $47,000 in in attorney fees.

The Whistlestop Retreat was an illegal resort at the west end of Lake Five, Eddy ruled earlier this spring and it violated county zoning regulations on several fronts.

The county’s settlement is not covered under its liability insurance.

In late March, Eddy ruled in favor of Friends of Lake Five, a nonprofit citizens group of Lake Five landowners, who were challenging the validity of a the county’s issuance of a major land use permit for the Whistlestop Retreat.

The county granted Whistlestop Retreat owner Dr. Susie Dietz and the G&M Trust a major land use permit on Feb. 28, 2020 to turn a sleepy piece of property at the west end of Lake Five into a resort.

The county permit came after Dietz apparently started developing the property, without permits, after she bought it from the estate of James Sherwood in 2018.

The development came despite the fact that the access road to the property contained easement that specifically said it could not serve commercial development.

Dietz, according to court records, kept on developing the property — which was broken into two tracts — adding guest cabins, houses and docks.

Friends of Lake Five, seeing what was happening, in turn, filed suit.

Eddy admonished the county and Dietz in the case.

“The Court is unconvinced Ms. Deitz thought she could develop a 70-person capacity commercial resort without legal access, permits for building or septic, or in consideration of lakeshore protection,” she found. “…This conclusion is supported by Ms. Dietz’s lack of communication with regulatory agencies during the permitting process, continuing to develop the property without a permit after she was on notice she needed one, and then continuing to develop the property beyond the scope of the permit which was obtained. The ‘ask for forgiveness instead of permission approach,’ which can be fostered by a regulatory review process that is primarily complaint driven, is not legally sufficient in this matter.”

Eddy also ordered that several of the structures Dietz has put up over the years be removed and any new construction by halted.

“All construction on the property, in or out of the lakeshore zone, shall cease immediately. G&M Trust shall restore the property to its previous unaltered condition, and, to that end, shall remove … the caboose; the fire tower, and the swim docks and restore the lakeshore by removal of the ‘fire hydrant pad’ and restoration of the walking trail,” Eddy wrote in her order in March.

It’s not clear if that order has been fully enforced.

Dietz, in an April Facebook post, said she had shut the resort down permanently.

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