Commissioners action in denying Silvertip Zone clearly illegal (video)

When the Carbon County Commissioners acted last Thursday to rescind their motion to go forward on the Silvertip Zone because of landowner protests, they chose to ignore a recent Montana Supreme Court decision that clearly makes such protests illegal.

You can watch the proceedings yourself. The audio is a little low, so make sure you turn the volume up to the highest level or use headphones. The video begins at 0:56.

You will note at 18:30, Commissioner John Prinkki claims that the Commissioners have no choice but to disallow the zone because of the protest:

Prinkki: Regarding this petition and the vote we’re about to take, the petition fails. As you know, under Section 5, because of the protest, we couldn’t move forward with this if we wanted to. It fails for that fact alone.

John Prinkki. Photo credit: James Woodcock, Billings Gazette

John Prinkki. Photo credit: James Woodcock, Billings Gazette

What Commissioner Prinkki is referring to is MCA 76-2-101(5), which states, “If real property owners representing 50% of the titled property ownership in the district protest the establishment of the district within 30 days of its creation, the board of county commissioners may not create the district. An area included in a district protested under this subsection may not be included in a zoning district petition under this section for a period of 1 year. ”

However, in August, 2013, in the case of Williams v Board of Commissioners of Missoula County, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed that the “protest provision” was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power because it failed to provide “standards or guidelines to inform the exercise of the delegated power” and contained no legislative bypass. Since there was no mechanism whereby a County Commission could override the protest, the Court found that it could give “a small number of agricultural or forest landowners, or even a single landowner . . . absolute discretion to make the ultimate determination concerning the public’s best interests with no opportunity for review.”

That, of course, is exactly what happened in Belfry. A single landowner who owns a very large piece of land was essentially able to undercut the will of 68% of the landowners in the zone to determine what should happen on their own land.

What the Commissioners did is not only illegal, it is undemocratic.

You can read an excellent analysis of the Williams case written in layman’s terms by Ross Keogh of the University of Montana School of Law by clicking here.

About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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3 Responses to Commissioners action in denying Silvertip Zone clearly illegal (video)

  1. Becky Grey says:

    Thank you David. Becky

    Sent from AOL Mobile Mail

  2. Don’t give up. You need to ELECT proper folks, not recycled Commissioner Prinnki, who helped bring you the failed SME debacle, and he was directly involved in that fiasco, and SME and Cascade County LOST in the MT Supreme Court when the Highwood Coal Plant project was ruled as illegal SPOT-ZONING. It also appears he ‘forget’ when landowners around the coal plant PROTESTED he didn’t care about citizens rights there, but how ‘convenient’ just ONE guy holds up all the rest. I hope ya’ll got Hertha busy.

  3. Pingback: Silvertip landowners’ Supreme Court case receives boost from University of Montana amicus brief | Preserve the Beartooth Front

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