Board Votes to Eliminate Gravel Pit Catch-22

By Beacon Staff

In an effort to correct inconsistencies between state and local gravel pit permits, the Flathead County Planning Board voted last week to recommend the county issue permits before the pits received state approval – providing applicants supply the county with the same information required by the state.

Currently, county zoning regulations require that the state’s Department of Environmental Quality approve a gravel pit’s plan for development before the county’s Board of Adjustment could grant a conditional use permit. The DEQ, though, requires that conditional use permit before approving the development plan.

The classic Catch-22 situation came to the forefront in a Montana Supreme Court case between a West Valley community group and a West Valley gravel pit. In January, the court cited the contradiction in its decision to override the county’s approval of the pit, and put the onus on the county to fix the problem.

The county’s planning and zoning office had recommended the board delete the sentence in the zoning regulations that required DEQ approval first. Instead, the board rewrote the sentence to say the Board of Adjustment can grant their permit without state approval, but the applicant must first submit the same environmental information required by the state to the local board.

“I think requiring the same information as the DEQ will make it clear that we’re not trying to lessen the requirements for gravel pits, but simply fix the contradiction between the county and state requirements,” Gordon Cross, the planning board’s chairman, said.

The board’s recommendation will now go before the county commissioners for final approval.

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