LETTER: Whitefish Council Outlaws Competition

By Beacon Staff

Last month the City of Whitefish formally asked Flathead County to participate in a joint corridor plan for doughnut property along U.S. Highway 93 south of the city limits. Seriously?

This is the same Whitefish that has sued Flathead County twice to tie up our doughnut properties for the past five years in ongoing litigation. Whitefish even obtained an injunction that continues today to stop the county from amending its doughnut growth policy, regardless of the uncertainty it creates for doughnut property owners.

But Whitefish’s concern is not us doughnut owners. Its sole focus is protecting its downtown business owners from competition and its “resort” character from commercial development anywhere near its borders. That’s why Whitefish has waged legal war against the county for half a decade, denying doughnut residents representation during this power struggle.

The commissioners’ attorney correctly noted that Whitefish’s own injunction prohibits the county from participating in this study. Beyond that, the commissioners now recognize that the Whitefish City Council hasn’t always kept its word.

Remember how the Whitefish City Council promised to be “reasonable” when it asked then-Commissioner Gary Hall to join with then-Commissioner Joe Brenneman to give Whitefish permanent control over the doughnut in 2005? Once Whitefish got this unfettered control over people who could not vote, it began its regime of overbearing, anti-competitive regulations that continues today.

Hall said trusting Whitefish was the biggest mistake of his political career. It caused his defeat at the next election.

Without the county’s participation in the corridor study, Whitefish may undertake this study itself. While the city council will invite doughnut property owners to speak, you can bet your Highway 93 frontage property that the council will not listen, just as they ignored us when imposing the Critical Area Ordinance and the dark skies and sign ordinances over our vigorous objections.

In fact, the Highway 93 south corridor study will be controlled by downtown, non-corridor business owners who want to prevent reasonable commercial development on the highway in order to boost their own property values. The Whitefish Way works best when it outlaws competition.

Meanwhile, we doughnut owners applaud our current commissioners zeal to fight for our right to representation, and willingness to seek judicial relief from the Whitefish tyranny that earlier commissioners unleashed.

Rick Blake

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