Whitefish City Council Responds to Criticism

By Beacon Staff

Check your mailbox. This week, residents in greater Whitefish received an eight-page document from the City Council, a response to an earlier mailing from a group called the Sensible Land Use. At the heart of the controversy is the proposed Critical Areas Ordinance, which seeks to protect drinking water, watersheds, and Whitefish Lake.

The 24-page Critical Areas Ordinance targets lands that have high groundwater, steep slopes, lakes, wetlands, streams, rivers, and stormwater conveyances. The ordinance drew criticism from the Sensible Land Use group, who sees the proposed law as flawed, unbalanced regulation that will affect most Whitefish homeowners and property owners. In response, the Council fired back, labeling the group’s mailing “full of half-truths, errors and distortions.”

In their “Setting the Record Straight” document, the City Council responded to each of the Sensible Land Use group’s “Top Ten Major Flaws of the Proposed Law.” They countered the group’s concerns regarding buffers and setbacks from water, private property trespassing, building exemptions, slope covers, soil constitution, new and remodeling construction, stormwater mapping, erosion, and runoff. The City also questioned the interests of the real estate developers behind Sensible Land Use.

Written by a seven-member committee made up of two City Council members and representatives from the City-County Planning Board, Whitefish Water Quality Advisory Committee, and the real estate and development industry, the Critical Areas Ordinance was designed with advise from critical area specialists and hydrology consultants. After 12 work sessions between May and July, the committee presented their findings and draft to the Whitefish City-County Planning Board.

Upcoming weeks shoot the ordinance toward City Council. The Whitefish City-County Planning Board scheduled a work session for the Critical Areas Ordinance on Oct. 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council chambers and a continuation of the September hearing for Oct. 18 at 6:00 p.m. The Whitefish City Council is scheduled to hear the ordinance on Nov. 5 at 7:10 p.m.

Copies of the Critical Areas Ordinance are available at www.planitwhitefish.com. Copies of the Sensible Land Use mailing are online at www.sensiblelanduse.com.

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