Hall Asks Whitefish To Exempt ‘Doughnut’ Residents from Ordinance

By Beacon Staff

On Feb. 9 Flathead County Commissioner Gary Hall sent a letter to the mayor and city manager of Whitefish requesting that the city exclude the “planning doughnut” area from a proposed critical areas ordinance.

In the letter, Hall warns that if the city doesn’t honor the request by March 3, the ordinance’s second reading at city council, county commissioners “will do everything in our power to rescind the agreement allowing the City of Whitefish continued authority over the properties in the donut area.” Feb. 19 is the ordinance’s first reading.

Hall adds: “We also fully realize the litigation that will ensue and for the sake of all of our taxpayers we would ask that you consider our intent.”

Hall said he spoke with both his attorney and fellow commissioners before sending the letter.

In 2003 county commissioners agreed to hand over planning power to the cities of Whitefish and Columbia Falls in the areas within a two-mile radius outside of city limits. In 2005, those agreements became official. Since then, the doughnut area has been controversial, reaching a head within the past year largely due to the drafting of a new growth policy and the critical areas ordinance, which is a storm water management document.

In the letter, Halls calls the current draft of the critical areas ordinance (CAO) “an incoherent document of crushing complexity and cost.”

Hall writes: “We have repeatedly made clear to you that we will not tolerate the imposition of extreme measures such as the CAO on the residents living outside the city limits of Whitefish. The decision has been made to ignore our request for eliminating these properties from CAO jurisdiction. Indeed, we now fully anticipate that your next step could be to annex those properties as you did with Whitefish Lake, resulting in increased taxes and regulation on the donut residences. This is an outcome that we must avoid at all costs.”