Doughnut Dispute Clears Another Hurdle

By Beacon Staff

On Tuesday, the Flathead County Commission unanimously approved a revised interlocal agreement for the “planning doughnut,” two weeks after the Whitefish City Council approved the same document.

The move by the commissioners is a major step in achieving a non-courtroom resolution to the ongoing dispute between the county and city over a two-mile area surrounding Whitefish known as the extraterritorial jurisdiction, or planning doughnut.

But the attorney for a third-party intervenor involved in a lawsuit between the two parties has indicated he does not support the revised interlocal agreement, raising the possibility of continued litigation.

As written, the agreement calls for both the county and city to drop their lawsuit, which has bounced from district court to state Supreme Court back to district court as both sides clamor for land-use jurisdiction in the doughnut.

Sean Frampton, the third-party intervenor’s attorney, says his clients have claims in the case and do not plan to drop their case. Frampton believes the approved agreement fails to adequately address representation for doughnut residents, a sentiment that has been echoed by the public at several meetings.

The commissioners’ decision came during a meeting in Whitefish on Nov. 30 in which the public had a chance to speak. Two weeks earlier on Nov. 15, the Whitefish City Council voted 3-2 to approve the document.

The restated agreement makes few changes to the old interlocal agreement, though a proposed memorandum of understanding would provide a mechanism for reviewing and enacting legislation.

The city retains authority in the doughnut but must meet annually with the county for discussion. The agreement lasts five years but a party can give a one-year notice of termination. Within that year, the agreement establishes guidelines for trying to reach a resolution through a mediator.

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