Realtors, Builders Challenge County Regulations

By Beacon Staff

An attorney representing a coalition of building and real estate groups sent a letter recently to Flathead County commissioners claiming the county’s subdivision regulations are fraught with illegal and burdensome parameters.

Bill VanCanagan, an attorney from Missoula, requested that the county have a discussion with the concerned groups before the end of April to avoid litigation.

The groups represented in the letter include the Montana Building Industry Association, Flathead Building Association, Northwest Montana Association of Realtors and Montana Chamber of Commerce. They want the county to re-write its regulations.

Bob Helder, president of the Flathead Building Association, said he hopes litigation can be avoided.

“The bottom line is that these extremely burdensome regulations are going to cause the price of all housing to go up,” Helder said. “If these regulations are allowed to stand, we can say goodbye to any affordable housing.”

At issue is the Flathead County Development Code, which went into effect last year. The code outlines subdivision regulations for county developments. One complaint in the letter is that the county’s subdivision process is “slow, unpredictable and costly.” The letter asserts that subdivision applicants’ fates rely too heavily on the “discretionary authority” of the county’s planning and zoning office. The letter goes on to describe various ways in which the concerned groups believe the subdivision regulations violate state laws.

Ambiguity is a large problem, the letter states.

“Perhaps the greatest deficiency in the FCDC, and thus the most serious constitutional violation, is that a number of its provisions are impermissibly vague and violative [sic] of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause,” VanCanagan writes.

Flathead County Commissioner Joe Brenneman said the county’s attorneys will carefully review the complaints, but added that the groups backing the letter are representative of only a portion of his constituents. He said the complaint is a “less than unbiased, objective” assessment of the county’s regulations.

“It’s hard not to notice that most of (the groups) have financial gain from developing more lots,” Brenneman said.

Brenneman pointed out that people come to the commissioners with the exact opposite complaint.

“We have an obligation also to listen to those who say our regulations aren’t strict enough,” he said.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.