Judge Dismisses Final Count in Neighborhood Plan Lawsuit

By Beacon Staff

A Flathead County District Court judge dissolved the preliminary injunction against the implementation of the Lakeside Neighborhood Plan and dismissed the final count in the civil lawsuit against the plan.

On Oct. 30, Judge Stewart Stadler issued his findings of fact and order dissolving the injunction, which initially went into place in April 2011. Stadler then ruled on Nov. 2 that the final issue remaining before the court – the alleged destruction of public records – be dismissed.

The lawsuit, filed in 2009 by Lakeside and Somers area landowners, accuses the county of secretly conducting planning efforts as the Lakeside Neighborhood Planning Committee sought to update the 1995 version of the plan in 2007.

In the time since the filing, the court has decided most of the legal issues in the county’s favor. In his Oct. 30 order, Stadler wrote that in previous hearings and orders, the court decided that the meetings and “procedural irregularities” of the Lakeside Neighborhood Planning Committee were “not decisions made by an agency” and thus not voidable under state law.

An amended complaint did not seek to void the neighborhood plan, Stadler noted, but sought to declare the neighborhood plan “illegal and unconstitutional and therefore of no force or effect.”

In November 2011, the LNPC and Flathead County moved to dissolve the injunction against the plan’s implementation based on the court’s decision that the amended complaint did not seek to void the plan and the remedy sought was “not available” based on allegations and evidence presented.

Stadler wrote in the Oct. 30 order that the plaintiffs are correct that an agency’s failure to comply with constitutional safeguards means that the agency’s decision should be voided, but it has already been decided that the LNPC did not constitute an agency and cannot be held subject to those laws.

“The Amended Complaint does not request that the County’s decision of adopting the Lakeside Neighborhood plan be voided,” Stadler wrote. “Plaintiffs’ argument that the LNPC’s destruction of public records require that the County’s decision be voided are based on a decision concerning an agency’s destruction of records and it has been determined that the LNPC is not an agency.”

The Nov. 2, 2012 order dismissed the final count of alleged public record destruction, making it the seventh issue out of seven in the lawsuit in which the court sided with the county.

“A review of the record also shows that Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint does not request any relief specific to the alleged destruction of public records,” Stadler wrote. “Further, voiding the Lakeside Neighborhood Plan is not an available remedy.”

The plaintiffs include David Allen, Eleanor Allen, Johnathan Allen, Aaron Allen, Kristy Allen, Darren Clarke, James Frame, Roxanne Frame, John Day, Bill Blomgren, Charles Harris, Judy Harris, Dennis Thornton, Donna Thornton, Jim Etzler, Beverly Etzler, Chris Rasmussen, Remi Rasmussen and Joyce Day.

The Lakeside Neighborhood Planning Committee and Flathead County are the defendants.

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