Realtors Expect ‘Huge Revenue Loss’ From Whitefish Law

By Beacon Staff

On Thursday the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors released a set of disclosure forms to roughly 1,400 real estate agents removing them from legal and financial liabilities that could be brought on by the city of Whitefish’s critical areas ordinance.

By using information from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), NMAR estimates that the critical areas ordinance, a controversial storm water management law, affects $775 million worth of property within Whitefish and in the planning jurisdiction surrounding the city.

The idea behind the disclosure documents is that when a homeowner looks to sell or a potential homebuyer looks to purchase, the real estate agent is not responsible for any legal complications or financial discrepancies that arise from the city’s enforcement of the critical areas ordinance. By signing the disclosure forms, the buyer and seller agree to that.

“In order to protect our members and clients,” NMAR President Cal Scott wrote in a press release, “we must disclose the ramifications of the Whitefish City Council’s action. The burden they placed on individual homeowners will not only affect their property rights, but will have a negative impact on the resale values, tax revenues and economic vitality.”

The forms state that sellers and buyers must both contact the Whitefish Planning and Building Department to “determine the property’s use,” and that agents and brokers have no way of accurately determining the property’s value without the city. Furthermore, the forms remind buyers and sellers that a dispute between Whitefish and the county over the “planning doughnut” is pending in court.

In an interview, George Culpepper Jr., NMAR’s government affairs director, said the association is continuing to look into its own litigation against the city.

“This will be a huge revenue loss for our members and I don’t think we’re going to sit on the sidelines and watch our members suffer,” Culpepper said.