Tag Archives: citizen initiated zoning

Latest developments in Beartooth Front Coalition lawsuit against Stillwater County

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

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Why is Stillwater County spending tens of thousands of dollars on high priced out of state lawyers?

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

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Last chance to tell the Stillwater Commissioners how you feel about proposed zoning policy

Writing letters makes a difference.

We saw it last week when the BLM backed off on a decision to sell oil leases on the Beartooth Front because of public opposition.

The Stillwater County Commissioners have decided to rewrite Montana state law to keep landowners from establishing reasonable protections from drilling. They need to hear that you think that’s a bad idea.

Tuesday, March 13 is the last day they will accept email comments.

Please click the link to find out what to do. It will only take a few minutes. Continue reading

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Stillwater residents give County Commissioners an earful on proposed policy (video)

What occurred yesterday in Columbus is what happens when elected officials ignore the people who pay their salaries.

After four years of stonewalling the hundreds of landowners who petitioned to set up a citizen initiated zone along the Beartooth Front, the Commissioners held a public hearing on Tuesday on a proposed policy that would forever block any group from doing the same thing.

As you would expect, people took the opportunity to express their indignation, not only about the proposed policy, but about the pattern of excuses, inaction, and delay that had brought them to this point.

To read more and watch video of the hearing, click the link. Continue reading

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Make your voice heard TODAY. Tell the Stillwater County Commissioners how you feel about landowner rights

Please make your voice heard. The Stillwater County Commissioners will be holding a public hearing to consider their proposed policy for citizen initiated zoning. The proposed policy is not a policy at all, but a thinly-veiled attempt to keep any … Continue reading

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ACTION ALERT: Please contact the Stillwater County Commissioners to stop them from taking landowner rights

Not content just to block Beartooth Front landowners from setting regulations that would protect their own properties, the Stillwater County Commissioners have devised a policy that will forever keep any local landowners from using their rights under Montana state law. The policy will be voted on after a public hearing in Columbs at 9:30am on March 6.

The Commissioners tried to sneak this policy past the public on January 24, but were stopped when local landowners forced them to follow their own policy on public notice.

This is not a policy. It is just a way to keep landowners from exercising their rights under the law.

The Commissioners have asked for public comment. This is where you come in. Please click the link and let them know how feel. Continue reading

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Beartooth Front zone update: Stillwater Commissioners turn their backs on locals who pay their salaries; support unknown outsiders

A portion of this post will appear in the Opinion section of the Stillwater County News on Thursday, February 1.

By rejecting a petition of over 550 landowners to establish the Beartooth Front Zoning District, the Stillwater Commissioners this week, after three years of inaction, delays, and excuses, have decided to turn their backs on the people who pay their salaries to stand up for unknown outside interests.

To do this they had to make up new law that has never been used in a single one of the 111 existing citizen initiated zones that have been established in Montana over the last 65 years.

It’s hard to imagine why they would want to spend precious County resources to defend this fantasy law in court against local landowners who have spent three years coming up with a plan that has received the overwhelming support of their neighbors. But that’s what they’re going to have to do unless they come to their senses pretty quickly.

To find out more, and to learn what you can do to help, click the link. Continue reading

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New study links fracking to migraines, fatigue, sinus problems

New research suggests that Pennsylvania residents with the highest exposure to active wells are nearly twice as likely to suffer from a combination of migraine headaches, chronic nasal and sinus symptoms and severe fatigue.

The research reminds us that Montana is one of the few oil and gas producing states with no mandated minimum distances, or setbacks, between wellheads and occupied buildings. The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation recently considered the issue of setbacks, but decided to require only notification of residents when a well is about to be drilled nearby. Carbon County recently became the first county in Montana to pass a county-wide setback restriction as part of the County’s growth plan revision.

This study is part of a growing body of evidence that oil and gas drilling has substantial negative impacts on human health. Montana remains woefully behind in protecting its residents from these health effects. Continue reading

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Stillwater County Commissioners ignore County residents on issue after issue. This has to change.

The Stillwater County Commissioners appear to be so out of touch with their constituents that they can’t be bothered to respond to residents on issue after issue. Several recent examples show a pattern of inadequate communication as well as failures in planning, budgeting and executing complex projects.

This article looks at an oil and gas district, a County road closed by rockslide, a historic building renovation and a disputed tree cutting process as a pattern of failure to plan, execute, budget and communicate.

It’s time for change, and it’s up to voters to make it happen. The next County Commissioner election is this year, and it is a vacant seat. It’s time for County residents to step up and fill these seats with competent and responsible Commissioners.

Click to read more. Continue reading

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All briefs filed in Silvertip Zone case; Montana Supreme Court ruling is next

All briefs have now been filed in the Carbon County case before the Montana Supreme Court. In the case, Belfry landowners have challenged the Carbon County Commission’s rejection of their petition for land use regulations to protect their private properties from the harmful effects of oil and gas drilling.

The Supreme Court has previously agreed to review the case. The Court will now decide whether to schedule a hearing or make a decision after reviewing the briefs.

This case is important because Montana law affords few protections to landowners against damages that can occur when oil and gas activity takes place near their homes. Citizen initiated zoning (CIZ) is one of the few opportunities Montana citizens have to establish local regulations to protect their properties. It has been used effectively in places like Bozeman and Great Falls to establish regulations to protect citizens.

Yet that process is badly flawed. The Silvertip zoning case currently before the Supreme Court exposes some of the problems with the process. Silvertip landowners worked to meet all CIZ requirements. Their petitions were accepted by the Carbon County Commissioners, who then made the decision, after multiple public hearings, that the zone was “in the public interest and convenience,” as required by law.

Subsequent events that led the Commissioners to reverse their decision exposed some significant ambiguities in the process that will affect landowners in other counties. Cases like the current one can help to make the CIZ process more clearly defined in law so that the Silvertip landowners, as well as landowners in other communities, can take advantage of CIZ provisions to protect their properties.

To read more about the case and review briefs that have been filed, click the link. Continue reading

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