- Action alert: Stillwater County Planning Board meeting, Wed, 9/4, 7pm
- Must attend! Stillwater County Planning Board: Wednesday, August 7, 7pm
- Stillwater County News: “Workable framework” adopted for potential southern county zone
- Action alert: Your attendance needed at Stillwater County Planning Board meeting, July 3, 2019
- Action alert: New developments in landowner lawsuit against Stillwater County; what you can do to help
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(Note: The following article appears in the July 11, 2019 edition of the Stillwater County News. It is reprinted here with permission of the Publisher. Subscription normally required to read article. To subscribe, click here.)
“Workable framework” adopted for potential southern county zone
“As Stillwater County is in a state of growth, the commission is looking into any and all options to help protect the county against out of control growth. While this may happen through some sort of zoning, it also may not. The commission’s goal is to welcome growth, but make sure it does not negatively effect the county as a whole.”
-County Commission Chairman Mark Crago
A “workable framework” has been adopted by the Stillwater County Planning Board, the latest action in the yearslong process spearheaded by residents to create a zone in the southern end of the county.
At the July 3 County Planning Board meeting, the Beartooth Front Coalition, a group of citizens from southern Stillwater County, presented a proposal for the creation of a zone that would regulate the surface impacts of oil and gas development.
The County Planning Board is considering the creation of the zone due to a mutual agreement between the Beartooth Front group and the county, who are opposing parties in a lawsuit regarding the invalidation of the group’s petition to create such a zone.
The lawsuit is on hold as the board considers the zone. After much discussion between the public and board members, the proposal was accepted last week by a 5-2 vote of the board and will act as a framework for the future as draft zoning regulations come to the board. Continue reading
There were continued positive developments in June in the Stillwater landowners’ attempts to establish a zoning district that will regulate oil and gas activity in southern Stillwater County. At the June meeting of the Planning Board, the Board voted to … Continue reading
Action alert: New developments in landowner lawsuit against Stillwater County; what you can do to help
A district court hearing in the Beartooth Front landowners’ suit against the Stillwater County Commissioners, originally scheduled for May 23, was postponed by mutual agreement of the parties. The reason for the postponement was a positive development in discussions between the landowners and the Commissioners.
The two sides agreed that the landowners would propose a county-inititiated zone to the Stillwater Planning Commission on June 5. If the Planning Commission recommends forming the zone, which would regulate oil and gas activity along the Beartooth Front, and the Commissioners approve it, the lawsuit would become unnecessary.
If the zone is not formed, the lawsuit will continue.
You can provide critical support by attending the Planning Commission meeting and speaking up to show that residents are behind the landowners’ efforts. Read the post to find out more, and forward this post to others who you think might attend. Continue reading
Stillwater County landowner lawsuit update: County runs out the clock on Judge Jones; hearing set for January 16
In the three months since my last update on the Beartooth Front landowners’ lawsuit against the Stillwater County Commissioners, the Commissioners have carefully followed a familiar path — delay, delay, delay. The result is that a new judge will have to hear the case, likely resulting in more delays down the road.
The landowners filed the suit last February after the Commissioners denied a petition to set up a citizen-initated zone to regulate oil and gas drilling in southern Stillwater County. The Commissioners ruled that the petition did not qualify, even though it met the legal requirement of the signatures of 60% of the landowners in the proposed zone. According to the Commissioners, the petitioners needed the signatures of 60% of the minerals owners in the proposed zone in addition to the landowners.
Delays are nothing new in this case. The landowners originally submitted their petition in November, 2015, and the County has taken every opportunity to avoid complying with the law and granting the petition, which would put reasonable regulations on drilling, not ban it.
Beartooth Front landowners last week filed the critical brief in their lawsuit against the Stillwater County Commissioners. It outlines their argument for why landowners alone, without the approval of minerals owners, should be able to establish a citizen-initiated zoning district. The argument lies at the heart of a central tension in Montana law: the self-determination of landowners to decide what happens on their own property vs. the importance of mineral extraction to the state economy.
Assuming there are no extensions, the County will have 21 days to respond, and then the landowners will have 14 days to reply. That will put the end of briefings in early October. Our attorney has asked for a hearing on the motion, and we are hopeful that Judge Jones will conduct the hearing and issue a ruling on our motion before the end of the year.
To read more, click the link.
Judge Blair Jones issued his first ruling today in the lawsuit Beartooth Front Coalition et al. vs. Board of Commissioners, Stillwater County. He ruled in favor of the landowners, denying the County’s motion for a summary judgment in their favor.
To find out more and read Judge Jones’ ruling, click the link. Continue reading
There was a familiar look to the gallery at the hearing Thursday in the Stillwater County Courthouse in Columbus. In the case of Beartooth Front Coalition et al vs. Stillwater County Commissioners, there were, by my count, 56 people there in support of the Beartooth Front Coalition, which is suing Stillwater County to establish a citizen-initiated zone to regulate land use related to oil and gas along the Beartooth Front.
They were easy to identify. They all knew each other. They are neighbors in southern Stillwater County, many from families that have been there for generations, who signed a petition to establish the zone. They greeted each other by name, offered encouragement, expressed resolve to be successful in the suit.
To find out what happened at the hearing (with photo), click the link. Continue reading
Action Alert: Please attend hearing on Stillwater County landowner lawsuit, Thursday, July 26, 1:30pm
The next step in the Beartooth Front Coaltion lawsuit against the Stillwater County Commissioners is a hearing in front of Judge Blair Jones. The hearing will be held at the Stillwater County Courthouse in Columbus on Thursday, July 26 at 1:30 pm.
This step is the first of several hearings in this case. If the landowners are successful in their suit, the ultimate outcome will be for the Commissioners to hold a hearing to consider the petition. It is critical for them to see evidence at every step of the way that landowners stand firm in their demand that their rights be protected.
Please come if you can.
To read more about the suit and the hearing, click the link. Continue reading
Stillwater County’s out of state law firm wasted no time in responding to the Beartooth Front Coalition’s lawsuit against Stillwater County by filing a motion to dismiss the suit. The petitioners have responded, and the case is in motion. This post summarizes the arguments put forward in the case so far, with links to the court documents.
Click the link to find out the details. Continue reading
The Stillwater County Commissioners have retained a high-priced out-of-state law firm to defend a lawsuit filed against them by Beartooth Front landowners. Over 60% of the landowners in the area have petitioned the County to set up a citizen-initiated zone to regulate oil and gas drilling, in accordance with Montana law.
Why would they hire a firm from out of state? And why would they hire a firm with rates much higher than would be charged by an expert Montana firm? It’s impossible to tell for sure. There has been no public notice of any contractual relationship with an outside firm. A look at recent Commissioner agendas and meeting minutes makes no mention of a contract.
But a look at the facts shows that the Commissioners have gone out of their way not only to deprive local landowners of their rights, but to establish a precedent that will end citizen-initiated zoning in Montana. In doing so they will pave the way for the oil and gas industry to operate without regard for local communities. This agenda dovetails perfectly with the national agenda of the oil and gas industry.
To find out more about this law firm, click the link. Continue reading