Flathead County Could Learn Something from Kalispell

By Beacon Staff

A big difference in attitude about planning exists between the city of Kalispell and Flathead County. It’s a big enough difference to cause one to wonder if the two jurisdictions live on the same planet.

Kudos to the city of Kalispell for taking a 40-plus year view of re-development of the original, industrial core of the city as featured in the Sept. 5 Flathead Beacon. The article’s title asks, “What’s Next for Kalispell?”

This question needs to be asked of Flathead County’s proposed revised growth policy, “What’s Next for Flathead County?” The county is taking comments on the revised growth policy until Sept. 30.

What strikes me is the city’s deep commitment to planning. According to the article, the city actually asked and listened to what it citizens and visitors wanted in a future city core. The resulting proposed plan hopes to make Kalispell a more efficient city for business, more enjoyable for its residents and visitors, and provide incentives that will attract additional development.

Imagine if this intelligent approach to planning were applied by planning Flathead County?

It would be fair to characterize the proposed county policy changes as regressive, promoting haphazard development, and putting individual property rights ahead of our collective tax burden, public safety, and care for our water.

How can the Flathead County Planning Board seriously offer to the county commissioners (who must decide whether to adopt their revisions) such a short-sighted planning document when Kalispell demonstrates the ability and skill to seriously plan?

Let’s look at just two changes proposed for the growth policy.

Flathead Valley residents think we should protect our drinking water. Of the several places where the revised growth policy addresses impacts to our water, in one place the following is removed: “Land use and subdivision should not threaten drinking waters sources.” (p. 89, 2007, FCGP).

The revised growth policy would appear to direct the county officials to not necessarily protect drinking water. Why would Flathead County want to adopt this?

Second example: the revised growth policy adds the following to every single page of the document, as if to bludgeon its citizens:

“Pursuant to 76-1-605(2)(a) M.C.A., a growth policy is not a regulatory document and does not confer any authority to regulate that is not otherwise specifically authorized by law or regulation adopted pursuant to the law.”

This quote is taken out of context with the full text that also states, “the governing body … must be guided by and give consideration to the general policy of development set out in the growth policy …”

So the growth policy must guide development based on its overall content. But what will we end up with when the content emphasizes non-planning? More sprawl, more mess, more tax burden for all.

I am so encouraged for Kalispell that they think planning is important. Flathead County would grab positive front-page headlines too if it took a page from Kalispell’s planning book. This could be a turning point.

Please call or write the county commissioners and tell them to stand up for sound planning. Ask them to reject the revised growth policy.

Dave Hadden

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