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Stormwater Advisory Committee

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Proposed North Lake County Planning & Zoning District Maps:


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North Lake Regulations and Bylaws [.pdf]

North Lake County Subcommittee

Photo by Dale Dufour


Statement Of Purpose

The purpose of the subcommittee is to investigate planning and zoning options for areas adjacent to the Bigfork Land Use Area which are in Lake County, including Woods Bay and Ferndale, and the existing Swan Sites and Lower Bug Creek zoning districts. These neighborhoods are similar to other neighborhoods around Bigfork, and some formal means of providing a planning and zoning voice to the residents of these areas will contribute to a greater consistency of planning for the community while helping preserve the way of life we value.


The North Lake County Planning & Zoning Committee recently learned that its proposal to incorporate the existing Lake County density designations and regulations by reference needs significant revision, to specifically incorporate the portions of the regulations that reflect the community's intent.

The Committee's proposed draft regulations are currently being reviewed by Lake County Planning Department staff. The Planning Department and GIS office are working on a new map, reflecting the proposal. The final draft and map will be posted as soon as they are available.

Summer schedule: the Committee will meet Fri Aug 3 and Fri Sept 7 at 9:00
a.m. in the Glacier Sotheby's conference room in Bigfork.






The North Lake County Planning and Zoning Committee presents these draft regulations for a proposed North Lake County Planning and Zoning District, for community discussion at meetings to be held at 7 p.m. on Wed., November 16, 2011 in the basement of Bethany Lutheran Church.

The full text of the draft regulations and Advisory Council bylaws is also available on the North Lake County page of the Bigfork Steering Committee website, www.bigforksteering.org

For more information, please contact a committee member:

Paul Rana, Chair  - 837-1102 or montanar@aol.com

Leslie Budewitz - 837-6094 or leslie@drbeans.com

Kaye McCreedy - 837-4151

Joe Potoczny

Steve Shapero

Kathryn Berg

Anne Moran, DNRC

Paul McKenzie, F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber

Rett Parker, Plum Creek

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Peter Drucker

To download Draft North Lake Regulations and Draft Bylaws,

select from left margin.

For more information, contact Leslie Budewitz at 837-6094, leslie@drbeans.com or Paul Rana at 837-1102, montanar@aol.com

Written comments may be sent to Leslie Budewitz, P.O. Box 1001, Bigfork, MT 59911.


Of the North Lake County Planning Community Meeting

July 23, 2008

held at

Bethany Lutheran Church, Bigfork, Montana

Chair Leslie Budewitz made the same introductory comments as at the July 22 meeting; see those minutes.


Leslie then opened the “comments” segment of the meeting:

Sue Shannon: Noted that advisory councils [to planning boards, for particular zoning districts] are not really provisioned for by state law, but the Commissioners indicated that they would consider it.  With the Woods Bay area considering the sewer system, the County would recommend that the zoning be implemented in tandem with same, i.e., when that sewer system goes on line, there’s zoning in place.  Leslie Budewitz: Sue’s correct, the county commissioners haven’t said they’d necessarily approve this, but they did feel we showed enough local interest to go forward and develop a proposal. 

Lin Schraeder (Ferndale): We are talking about these members being appointed--by whom?  Leslie:  County Commissioners.  Lin: We are leaving our representatives to be appointed by Polson, then.  Leslie:  One represents Polson, northward; one represents Polson to Pablo, and one Ronan south to Arlee.  Sue: Pointed out that anybody in the county can vote for any of the commissioners, you’re not just voting for someone in your district.  Lin: Most people live south of this area.  Sue: Reminded that anybody from this area can run for county commissioner.  Lin: where are maps available? Leslie: A link to those maps is located on the Bigfork Steering Committee site, see the N. Lake County link on the left side.  Lin: Are they county maps where that portion has been pulled off the GIS for this purpose, and do they have all the layers?  Sue and Leslie: Not all the layers.   See Wendy Thinglestad in the Clerk and Recorder’s office.  Leslie: Reminded that these five maps are available on links on the website.  There’s also a copy of the lake county growth policy.  Lots of info., maps, etc. in it.  Agricultural information and other info. Are available.  Lin: Most GIS compilations also have slope and slope aspect, elevation.  You can use a lot of that to determine where particular kinds of use are not applicable.  Leslie: That’s a good point.

Bruce Cutshall: You alluded that everything would be grandfathered.  So if you had a subdivision before, that wouldn’t be impacted by the zoning or planning.  Do counties have eminent domain, and would this increase their powers?  Leslie: Thought not.    Anne Moran and Sue Shannon: Discussed issue of contemplated vs. grandfathered uses.  Sue: Couldn’t prohibit reasonable development of an existing tract.

Leslie: Plans to send a letter to every landowner in the proposed district this fall, inviting your input and asking you how you would like to see your land zoned in the future. 

Frank Unmack: At our meeting the other night (Greater Woods Bay Sewer District) a question came up that could not be answered.  We don’t have room for a plant, so we have an agreement to pump the effluent over the hill and into the area.  Our engineer and area have started surveys along the Hwy. 35 grade to site pumping stations.  There are problems with land acquisition and utilities to power the pumping station.  My area of responsibility is Sylvan Drive.  My area will have 3 pumping stations.  My question to the group the other night was, “What information are we going to give to our engineer and architect about the horsepower of those pumping stations; what is going to be the density?  How many people are going to be in there?”  We cannot do our planning for land acquisition and utilities into that area without concrete information on zoning.  Leslie: Summarized the question, of where do they go to get that information?  Currently, you could look at the density map.  Sue: Also look at where your water is coming from, because you are limited by how much water you have.  Frank: Ridgewood has received a water right from the lake that could be transferred to developers.  Sue: You can only transfer that water right for agricultural uses, and suggested a subcommittee to look at road network, landscape, and try to come up with what everybody can be satisfied with for density for that area.  Frank: If they plan wrong, then the costs could skyrocket and everybody could get angry.  When you get away from Woods Bay, trying to sell the idea of sewers is not easy!  Leslie: Sources of information are density maps, water availability, road networks, agricultural use water rights (can that be transferred to residential uses?).  You can’t just transfer agricultural water rights to residential.  Sue: also added that covenants would be another one to look at.

Kathryn Berg: Wouldn’t part of the process of zoning be to establish some boundaries/limits to how much density there can be?  Leslie: Yes, they can be established in a little more detail.  Kathryn: That’s why it is so important to get the zoning in first.  Frank: One of the ways we can fund this project is to go for grant money, and you don’t know, it becomes an additional handicap for grant applications in addition to guiding engineer and architect.  Leslie: We hope to have draft regulations out to the community by spring or summer, though it’s hard to predict.  We’ll be working on regulations in the next few months.  We would like to be able to present a proposal to the planning department—who we will be working with all along—by next summer or early fall.  Sue suggested if they don’t want to work on our timeline, they could get together as a neighborhood, put it together, and then join into the bigger district later.

Lin: Another source of information on population growth and things of that nature could very well be the state DOT (Department of Transportation).  Their planning departments have an awful lot of information.  Leslie: Another source we haven’t tapped into is the school superintendent, because the district has done projections on future growth.  They may not be specific enough for our areas; they may not have population information, but they have an awful lot of information.  Leslie: will get email on DOT information to Frank.  Steve Zabarro: Frank ought to ask the Bigfork Sewer District how much they can handle?  Julie Spencer: They have agreed to take a certain amount, but it was fairly random.  They are planning based on Bigfork’s information, don’t have a lot of information from Woods Bay.

Brad Reedstrom: Lives in Ferndale, has a couple questions/comments.  Heard a few times questions that you want to implement zoning, but don’t we have zoning?  Leslie: We have density zoning, we want to add use zoning.  Brad: By adding use zoning does that dictate lot sizes, number of units/acre?  Does it address number of units, rather than just type?  How far does that term use go?  Leslie: Thinks we have some flexibility, is this correct,  Sue?  The existing density zoning is county-wide.  Sue: You can vary from the density zoning; it just has to comply with purpose and intent of state law, and the growth policy.  Leslie: In certain areas, the density zoning will differ from what’s on the map.  In use zoning, we can talk about what are permitted, conditional, and prohibited uses.  For example, is this an area where hotels are appropriate, or retail development, or light industrial are appropriate.  We’ll start with what’s on the ground.  Brad: We—the community—gets to decide: is that the advisory council, or the community-at-large?  Leslie: The advisory council is created by the regulations, and it gets created when the district is created.  It is the community that creates it; please join the community planning group, drop in, call Leslie, respond to letters, drop in.  Provide your input whatever way works for you.  We have to demonstrate at each stage to the planning board and commissioners that we do have strong community support.  Brad: So proposed regulations of this zoning area, when those come out –hopefully spring of 2009—this community would have a really good idea of all of those questions of density, lot size, etc., this is something we do want or don’t want?  Anne Moran: Commented from her perspective as a State Trust Lands planner who participates in many of these zoning efforts that this group in particular goes out of its way to insure good community involvement.  Brad: What impact does this advisory committee have if Bigfork becomes a township?  Leslie: Wow—good question; I don’t know that anybody can answer that just yet.  Flathead County commissioner Brenneman has a proposal to enact in state law a township, which doesn’t exist yet.  It is something less than an incorporated city, but would give an area more authority/autonomy over land use decisions.  Sue and Leslie: Both commented that it’s not even drafted yet, so whether a township could cross county lines, or whether Lake County would participate, can’t be known yet.  Brad: If township advisory committee did not approve, it would not flow upward to commissioners/etc.  John Bourqin (Ex-Chair of BLUAC): Would not flow up.  Doesn’t make sense for the township to cross county lines.  There is a distinction between township advisory council vs. zoning advisory council.

Brad: Appointment process scares me.  Is there a criteria, mandate, interview process, or are the commissioners free to appoint any candidate they like.  Leslie: Ultimately they are free to appoint whomever they want.  We don’t have all the details right now.  We would anticipate an application process.  The commissioners may or may not be free to interview them.  What would you like to see happen?

Brad: Election is better than appointment, a better representation.  Leslie: We kind of felt the same way, but it could be reviewed/changed.  Appointment vs. election in chain of command (i.e., Planning Board is not even elected, it is appointed, and the Advisory Council would be subordinate to the Planning Board).  Elections can be expensive.  Might be difficult to get enough people to run. 

Steve Z: Commissioner Hutchins was in favor of appointed because of logistics of election.  We’d have to have different ballots printed for each area of the neighborhoods. 

Leslie: If there are only four people interested in five positions, appointing isn’t going to get anyone extra to run.  But the candidates would be appointed .  Can we just have separate Bylaws that address this?  Anne: We have to fit into a County process.  Sue: With a Board of Commissioners appointment, they want representatives from different facets of the population.  Not be swayed by public comment, etc.   Ultimately, it will be up to the commissioners. 

Leslie then asked if there were any additional feedback/comments, and reviewed what is planned for the way forward.


4.  The Way Ahead

Fall 2008 – 1) send out letters in fall to notify each land owner of intent to form district, outline proposal, ask people to identify how they want their property zoned.

- esp important for commercial users.

-  Identify areas that currently exist and to validate this with the owners.

2) begin drafting regs

Winter 2009 – Continue draft regs/by-laws for advisory council

Spring 2009 – Public meeting on regs and by-laws//finalize regs for district formation.

Summer 2009 – Public meeting regarding regulations//mailout ballot for reg acceptance

Fall 2009 – Formation of district

Winter 2010 – Formation of Advisory Council.

County regs available at door

County currently revising subdivision regulations – meet 3d Wed, 6 pm, 3d floor courthouse; draft out in Oct – taking public comment

Written comments – forms on back of agenda

              - give to one of us//mail to me or Sue Shannon

Committee meetings: 1st and 3d Fridays, 9 am, Saddlehorn – start again Sept 5

Every one is welcome.

Sue Shannon: Brought up the fact for everyone’s information that a petition is apparently being circulated to repeal density zoning.

Leslie thanked everyone who cooperated in setting up the meeting and participating, and the meeting then adjourned.



Of the North Lake County Planning Community Meeting

July 22, 2008

held at

Brumar Estates, Bigfork, Montana

North Lake County Planning and Zoning (NLCPZ) Chair Leslie Budewitz introduced herself and provided an overview of the progress of the planning and zoning effort, outlined as follows:


Principles of Civil Dialogue

Show of hands – who attended meetings summer 2007

                            – who lives in Woods Bay, Ferndale (incl.  Swan Sites), Lower Bug Creek district

Hope to finish by 8:30 – but will stay to hear all comments.

1. Brief History

What prompted this?

              – opportunity driven, not response to specific project

We view planning and zoning as a method:

- by which local communities and landowners can address change;

- by which changing demographic affects on the community can be identified;

- by which local people can affect change in a neighborly way.

- 2005 BSC survey showed Lake Co residents strongly favored (77%) local vs. county control of zoning process.

- Grtr Woods Bay sewer district - survey, need for zoning district.

Committee meeting regularly since fall 2006 - volunteers, 3 mbrs in prof’l capacity

Public meetings in June and July of 2007 to determine interest and neighborhoods to be included.

              - about 150 attended; 40+ written comments.

              - Oral comments, straw votes showed strong interest in Ferndale & Woods Bay.

- Eastshore residents already have own district, preferred to continue as is rather than join with other neighborhoods; that cmty reviewed & updated their regs early 2008.

              - Swan Lake content with county-level planning.

- Swan Sites HOA - another 50+; informational; many residents attended other meetings

              - Every written comment favored forming NLC; expressed specific concerns.

2. NLC PZC major endeavors since last summer:

a. biweekly meetings (avg. 12 members + DNRC, Plum Creek, Stoltze reps); welcome new members, drop-ins.

b. Regular reports to BSC (charter includes Lake Co neighborhoods), BSC website, articles & letters in Bigfork Eagle, community update emails.

c. Active participant in negotiations among East Shore Zoning District residents in the 5 year review of Zoning Regulations, as a way of learning from them, and maintaining some consistency in north part of county.

d. Drive through of entire area to identify current usage, density, and trends, particularly commercial uses b/c of comments received.

e. Frequent consultation with Lake County Planning Dept and BLUAC officials

f. “Interested party” comments - public agencies – limited at this point – more later.

g. Advisory Council investigations.

- liaison b/t community & Planning Board.

              - none in Lake County.

- looked to Flathead Co AC s (particularly BLUAC) and Msla Co Cmty Councils as potential models; advantages, disadvantages.

h. started to discuss what zoning regulations would help community meet its goals. Want to hear more from you about that tonight & in written comments.

3. What are we doing tonight – your input – Public Collaboration

a. Maps showing current density zoning and current commercial uses (based on tax classification, observations)

b. Other maps

c. Explain the existing density map. – What use zoning is.

d. SE boundary – where should it be?

              – Six Mile/Terrace area (to about MM 75) looks like area to north, similar density.

– if existing LBC district included, makes sense to include area directly across lake (east side)

e. Surveys and oral/written comments showed concern about commercial uses located in areas that have become largely residential. One approach to solving that problem is to concentrate future commercial uses in the best places to optimize access & public services while minimizing conflict with residential uses. Purpose is to balance neighbors’ rights to use their property in ways that minimize adverse impact on their neighbors.

- existing uses grandfathered.

              - process for change provides predictability/prevents surprises in the future.

– effect on existing covenants in named communities within proposed district.


f. What we have in mind now – what we do depends on your comments, and views of Planning Board & County commrs

              – Advisory Council – CHART slide

              - purpose: hold local hearings on proposed subdivisions, zoning changes (use & density); provide opportunity for local review of problems, zoning violations, etc.; communication on other land use issues. Similar to BLUAC – model not transfer easily; Lake & Flathead approach land use & planning differently, difference in resources; differences on ground – less commercial, more timber/ag, more state land.

- opportunity for public review of and comment on proposals, within the community – not require drive to Polson.

- discussed many possible configurations, pros & cons of each

              - 7 mbrs: 2 WB, 2 Ferndale, 1 at large

              - any resident/landowner

              - 2 reserved seats: one for a rep of timber/agriculture, acknowledging value to cmty – e.g., orchard owner, commercial gardener, tree farmer, cattle, timber companies. One for DNRC – trust lands, variety of uses, roughly 10% of land in proposed district.

              – appointed vs. elected

Leslie then opened the “comments” segment of the meeting, recounting the “Principles of Civil Dialogue” and the need to keep comments short – give everyone a chance.

Following are approximately verbatim comments of the meeting attendees:

Mark Evanoff:  We’ve all heard a lot lately about Plum Creek and its proposed sale to lands some to the State, USFS, and private.   Are these lands within this area?  Leslie Budewitz:  Not in this zoning area.  North boundary is T24, Sections 17 & 18 (s. of Swan Lake).   Sue Shannon: Maps of this available in the Trust for Public Lands Website.

Mark: Countywide vote for public safety levy will provide another officer in this area in addition to one in Swan Valley?  Leslie thought so, but Sue didn’t think that there is an officer specific area. . . thought they wanted more areas, a third officer on duty.  It was recommended that he call the Sheriff’s office and find out exactly how the money is allocated.  Tracy Reiling was at a candidate forum where the levy was discussed and heard they were specifically looking for someone to live here, be here, and almost be on call for 24 hrs type of situation.  Mark: cited 4 ½ hour turnaround on alarm response; Sue suggested call the sheriff.

Don Kirby: Who approves this plan,  and how is it approved by, and is it voted on?  Leslie: Ultimately, all the decisions would be made by County Commissioners.  If we continue to believe there is strong support in community, we will go forward with the community and draft regulations, etc.  If there is not a consensus, we won’t go forward; so far we have tried to meet the needs of the whole community.  We would have to present our draft regulations to the planning department, they will review them and provide technical insights.  At any stage, we may have to come back to the community if we have missed things or have problematic areas.  The Planning Board can do the same thing; then it goes to the County Commissioners, who also could send it back for more review.  Ultimately, the County Commissioners will decide.  Steve Zabarro: The County Commissioners will decide and they will be very responsive to input from this area. 

Martha Katz: Would like to hear from Sue what are the advantages and disadvantages of the zoning district?

Sue Shannon: It’s difficult to say because I don’t live in your community.  From a planning perspective for the County, having a zoning district helps you review subdivision proposals.  They have a clearer set of regulations to comply with when someone comes forth with a request.  The disadvantage is that there are costs associated with service, insuring violates are dealt with, permits, public hearings, etc.  What she hears about from the public is that you know what is going to happen next.  You don’t have worry about offensive uses that affect property values.  When we reviewed and approved the density map, there were a lot of realtors/developers that were really concerned about how it would impact property values and their businesses; after the regs were in place for awhile they heard a lot of positives.  If you are thinking about subdividing, this clarifies how many units you have on your property. 

Sue Laverty: Lives in Swan Sites on Sunburst.  To address from a personal view, there are a lot of benefits; I can’t think of many non-benefits.  You know what might be next to you or down the street from you; you know what the setbacks/property line limitations on to prevent encroachment, etc.  We had a proposal for a wildlife menagerie but because we were in a zoning district, we were able to respond through the conditional use process that it wasn’t acceptable.  It’s a huge benefit to know what your neighborhood will be like; it’s an even playing field for everyone.  Kaye McCreedy: It is an advantage when you’re selling that anybody buying will be knowing what they are going to get.  Sue: Every five years you go through and review your zoning regulations—at least Swan Sites does—is there anything that is changing for us, do we need to allow home offices if there aren’t impacts, etc.  Sue Shannon clarified that at the wildlife menagerie, that property was allowed to do commercial uses that would benefit the local property.  As the County Zoning Administrator, Sue declined it because it was not in the best interest of the residents.  Kaye commented that the residents in the area had a big voice in this too, especially as far as Fish, Wildlife, & Parks was concerned, because there were no regulations against it.  Because they had the voice of people in the whole area.  That’s what we’re doing here, too; they want the opinion and the voice of all the people in the area.

Leslie: Back to Martha’s question: Our committee will start writing the first draft, and EVERYONE IS WELCOME.  You can come for a portion of the year and if you have to leave, that’s fine—that’s a viewpoint we need to represent also.  Our committee will do the first draft, probably using the Swan Sites and East Shore regulations as a starting point; we envision that this district will encompass Swan Sites.  We also have a lot of information from the Bigfork Steering committee survey, which will help guide us.  There is less information from the Woods Bay survey, but we’ll use that; we also got comments last year, and please submit comments tonight, mail/email me.  Sue pointed out that she brought examples of the East Side/Swan Sites/Lower Bug Creek zoning regulations, and they are on the table available for review.  Please take it home and peruse it. 

Sue Laverty: Even though, at least where we live in Swan Sites, it’s not like a “one size fits all”; we have four or five sub-units within our area.  Believes that Finley Point is a lot like that, too.

Woody Downs: Has a business here in Ferndale.  We have a small residential property but want to have a sheet mental property, and want to be able to run my business from my home.  But I don’t really have a commercial property now.  [Woody depicted where it is located—right across from Whistler’s].  I know a lot of people are unhappy about Whistler’s, which is so big and loud and a lot is going on there.  I know that a lot of people don’t want  a big business next door, but I also know that I want to have a little shop on my own property next year.  Leslie: I can’t tell you exactly what the process is going to be, but you’ve depicted the interest you have there.  One of our goals for this fall is to send a letter to each property owner in the proposed district, and specifically invite your comments, and also ask what you would like to see your property zoned as.  It may be because you are in an area where there are some shops, it might be a permitted use or a conditional use.  We might have similar situations around.  It’s everybody from a small accounting business in a house to an acupuncturist in a house.  Sue Shannon: I wouldn’t consider that commercial; if you were trying to get it designated as commercial, then it wouldn’t be allowed to be residential; if it is both residential/commercial combined, then you might want to consider home occupation.  Typically the primary use of property is residential in home occupation property.

Marshall Kreuter: Early on you said that in the response for survey, approximately 77% favored local control or something of that effect.  77% of survey responded?  Leslie: Yes.   Marshall: What was the response rate?  Leslie: 28% of the surveys sent out were returned.  Is there an intention to follow up on this between now and the next phase; is there an effort to try to reach this population again?  Leslie: We are going to send out a letter this fall; the survey dealt with a lot that isn’t part of our purview.  By a letter we’ll get more specific information.   Sue Shannon: Will the letter ask if they are in favor in zoning?  Leslie:  Not sure; letter is aimed at getting information that they will use in regulations, and then might be appropriate to ask.  Marshall: Noted that there are a lot of folks who didn’t get input on this and he is in favor of all possible input.  You need to look at different ways of reaching of the public through  college kids, etc. Where the Universities are studying strategic planning, etc., can we use them to assist in communicating in the process? 

Leslie then asked if there were any additional feedback/comments, and reviewed what is planned for the way forward, as follows:

4.  The Way Ahead

Fall 2008 – 1) send out letters in fall to notify each land owner of intent to form district, outline proposal, ask people to identify how they want their property zoned.

- esp important for commercial users.

-  Identify areas that currently exist and to validate this with the owners.

2) begin drafting regs

Winter 2009 – Continue draft regs/by-laws for advisory council

Spring 2009 – Public meeting on regs and by-laws//finalize regs for district formation.

Summer 2009 – Public meeting regarding regulations//mailout ballot for reg acceptance

Fall 2009 – Formation of district

Winter 2010 – Formation of Advisory Council.

County regs available at door

County currently revising subdivision regulations – meet 3d Wed, 6 pm, 3d floor courthouse; draft out in Oct – taking public comment

Written comments – forms on back of agenda

              - give to one of us//mail to me or Sue Shannon

Committee meetings: 1st and 3d Fridays, 9 am, Saddlehorn – start again Sept 5

Every one is welcome.

Leslie thanked everyone who cooperated in setting up the meeting and participating, and the meeting then adjourned.



Opening remarks from the chair

Note that we did not take verbatim minutes of Committee Chair Leslie Budewitz’s opening remarks, who presented the following information at both meetings. Both meetings also included opening comments from committee members Joe Potoczny, Kaye McCreedy, and Dave Seymour (7/21/09 meeting only).


where do people live

been to past meetings


Our goal: to create a planning & zoning system for Woods Bay and Ferndale that will give the community – the residents and landowners – a means to help guide future development in the way that the community wants.

Repeatedly over the last 2-1/2 years, people have told us they would like the look and feel of our area to stay the same. With all the development pressures around us, that’s unlikely. We’re located between two zoned areas – the Bigfork Zoning District to the north in Flathead Co, and the Eastshore District to the south along the lake – with a third, Swan Sites,  in the middle. Development not allowed in those areas could end up in Woods Bay or unzoned areas of Ferndale. WB is inviting b/c near the water; Ferndale b/c of open spaces and feel, and its historically lower prices. This committee is not against development, as I’m sure most of you are not against it, but without some way to say what we as a community want and what we don’t want, our neighborhoods could become the dumping ground for unwanted development unless we protect ourselves. 

The best way to keep things looking and feeling the way they do now, is to adopt regulations and a process to help us guide future growth. We can never control it, but we can guide it.

history/progress report

Woods Bay survey – in conjunction with sewer district; zoning important piece of that process. Risk of overdevelopment when sewer goes on line.

BSC survey, Lake Co responses: Overwhelming - 77% – interest in local vs. county level planning.

Two groups joined, formed this committee.

Commrs gave us go-ahead to work on a proposal. Not yet approve formation of a district.

Committee: WB, Ferndale/SS residents, representatives of large landowners (DNRC, Plum Creek, Stoltze). (Others invited, not choose to participate.) Includes HOA officers, builders, past & present planning board members, environmtl eng’r, professional planners & foresters, lawyer. Welcome any participation, no matter what POV.

Over last 2+ years, worked on a variety of issues:

1st 8 months: Size/neighborhoods that wanted to be included. Ferndale & WB strong response for; Eastshore preferred to continue alone, updated regs; Swan Lake residents at meeting content with county level zoning.

2d yr: educated ourselves on what was & wasn’t possible, general u/s of Lake Co zoning, advisory council – none in Lake Co, looked at various models from other counties.

Past year: advisory council, survey/comments, started work on regs. Had hoped to have draft regs this summer – delayed by survey/list issues. Needed community comment to work on the regs. Will show you outline and discuss in more detail.

Potential District             

A brief explanation of how zoning works in Lake Co, and why it is more local, gives local residents more voice than in Flathead Co.

Approach Lake Co takes very different approach from Flathead Co. Go into that b/c most of you probably more familiar with Flathead Co model b/c that’s what we read about in local papers. Lake Co: Density zoning applies throughout county, including in unzoned areas like ours. ralph lauren outlets Several local districts – East Shore, Finley Point, etc. Each local district can write its own zoning regulations, so long as they are consistent with County Growth Policy and other county-wide regs. Subdivision regulations are the same throughout the county, as are others – lakeshore protection, etc. Allows for more voice, more local response.

Flathead Co: one set of zoning regulations; each district drafts own neighborhood plan to guide the implementation & application of those regs in that area. Their zoning regs identify specific areas for specific types of development or restrictions.

In our view, Lake Co approach not as restrictive. Allows more variety w/in community. Is a local value.

Areas not covenanted & larger undeveloped acreage likely more affected

Not proposing many changes to the density map – will depend on specific survey responses.

Swan Sites is an existing zoning district. Regs within its boundaries will stay the same. The advantage to SS property owners in joining the larger ralph lauren bathing suits district is to help ensure some continuity in the surrounding area, and to have greater opportunities for local input through the Advisory Council process.

Advisory Council: subcommittee has a complete draft, will discuss with Planning Director soon. Will be distributed with rest of draft regs (but anyone can have a copy now).

7 members, 2 WB, 2 FD, one at large; 1 seat reserved for DNRC; 1 for timber/ag/orchard rep (not necessarily a PC/Stoltze rep)

appointed vs. elected

public review process – review applications for zoning changes, variances, conditional use permits, major subdivision. Take public comment. Make recommendations to Planning Board & Bd of Adjustment. Convey comment. Local, local, local.

Draft zoning regulations

“Zoning Lite”  – “least polo ralph lauren outlet regulation needed to meet the community’s goals”

review outline/slide

Public/Planning Board/Commrs

Work closely with staff to complete draft             

Community meetings to review section by section

Planning Board

County Commrs/notice & comment period/resolution

Public Comments & Questions - oral or written

 7/21/09 NLCAC Community meeting, Bethany Lutheran Church

Record of comments following meeting introduction by Chair Leslie Budewitz and other presenters.  Please note that comments may not be exactly verbatim but we did our best to accurately capture the comments and speakers’ identities.

Warren Lamb: Where do we expect the most growth?  Leslie B. replied that if the Woods Bay Sewer District goes forward, there is tremendous potential for growth along that line and may be the area of greatest concern.  We haven’t identified other particular focus areas. 

Sue Shannon (Lake County Planner): On the density map, we’ve established the Woods Bay community growth area, based on the existing development.

Warren L.: Is there a place you’d like to see more growth? 

Leslie B.:  We’ve asked people to identify areas they’d like to develop, and the surveys have indicated some—a couple parcels around Woods Bay, Saddlehorn on the marina, Crane Mtn., the elk farm, and some areas in Ferndale. 

Warren L.: Would like to open an auto body repair, and possibly, and that is one of the reasons he’s here, wants to know what is going on.  Is here for same reason as everyone else—beauty and tranquility. 

Leslie B.: One of the things we’ve heard is that home-based businesses/occupations is a kind of use we really depend upon in this kind of community, many of us make our living this way and we would like to see it continue, so our regulations will allow for that, but regs will also allow us to cope with conflicts.  Conflicts have increased with more residential/commercial interface and growth, traffic, noise, kennels, delivery trucks, etc. 

Warren L.: Very little in the way of the kind of professional, clean, upscale type of thing he wants to do.

Martin Miller: You are going to have make a very big assumption as to whether the Sewer District is going to go into Woods Bay or not; if it goes in, you can allow for more density.  If you don’t assume it’s going to be there, then your density is going to be much less, because when it does come in, now it can support a bigger density. 

Pat Smith/Paul Rana (Sewer District volunteers): Would like to discuss that off-line. 

Sue S.: Pat and Paul came to talk to the planning office when the efforts were beginning, because they wanted some level of assurance that the number of connections they were going to finance would be equally distributed, so that one landowner couldn’t take exceptional advantage of the connections, and wanted to size the Sewer District in an equitable fashion.  Doesn’t enter the question of where they would all be distributed to.  Relating to Warren’s question, you are going to start this auto repair business, and you are going to want highway availability and visibility, you might be a good person to suggest where would be a good location for this to occur.  Same thing with a supermarket—maybe you might have good suggestions for where this could occur.

Warren L.: His experience in both small and large areas indicates that if you get all the commercial in one place, sometimes things start getting run-down, and he doesn’t feel like he’s been here long enough to make suggestions but would like to hear what others think. 

Sue S.: Very important to hear community ideas on needs and get a feeling for what you people think to assist them in determining this.

Leslie B.:  Possible commercial areas identified: Woods Bay/Raven area (incl. market area on top of hill) and Hwy. 83 area.

Jake Stack: Ferndale Market  (just over border in Flathead County).

Lake County Commissioner Bill Barron: A couple of things to comment on: two things I’m huge on are property rights and gun rights.  If I make decisions in the Commissioners’ office, I’m going to err on the side of the property owner.  Sometimes I make the right decisions and sometimes I don’t.  But one thing I can tell you as a commissioner is that we don’t have problems in zoned areas.  But outside zoned areas, we have constant problems—neighbors shooting neighbors, etc., and it is not uncommon.  Any decisions I make as a commissioner I will make carefully, but one thing I think is important is to keep an open mind, and not just say, “not at all.”  Listen carefully and pay attention to make your decision, and then weigh and balance the gains and losses because there will be both (cited example of pig pen, which caused 2 ½ years of misery from the Sheriff’s office in dealing with those properties).  Dog barking—County only has one ordinance and it isn’t going to regulate all of that.  And in these neighborhoods, when it’s zoned, there are variances, and you can bring it to the commissioners, and you might get your way or you might not.  But the zoning process is a good one, because it can be revisited every five years.  Just keep an open mind, know the process, and decide your position on it knowing the information.

Brad Reedstrom: Has opinions in the other side of things.  Has thought about this a lot, and is personally not in favor of zoning, and one of the reasons he bought his property [couldn’t hear amount] years ago is that it is not zoned.  History of neighborhoods—when Missoula County started Countywide zoning—when it started, it was like everything you hear today—our intent was to not change your existing use, and at the time, it was the truth.  But 20-40 County commissioners later, things have changed drastically.  Once you go from the density zoning we have now to use zoning, in my opinion you have just given up those rights, and you have now put into play any option that the commissioners would like to add to the zoning.  I work with Lake County Commissioners all the time and I have nothing bad to say about them, but I do think that this area is a little different, and something inside of me doesn’t like the fact that three county commissioners possibly from other locations are going to make decisions that affect my property in Ferndale.  Once you get the wrong people in place, and once you go from this density zoning to use zoning, you can’t predict the future.  What if I need to build a cabinet shop behind my house to make a living for my family?  What if I need to build a house for my parents to live in?  I don’t want to give up my rights to do that, I don’t want to have to go to get a building permit to re-roof my chicken coop.  Once you go down that road, things can change.  One of my concerns is giving up my rights and leaving that decision to others.  Most Montanans are not for bigger government, bigger regulation.  There’s more expense to the County for it.  Somebody has to regulate it, somebody has to reinforce it.   You talk about covenants and legal fees to enforce them, with zoning there are legal fees and we all have to pay for it.  I believe that we can do this better with our existing covenants and existing homeowners’ associations.

Leslie B.: Comments on Brad’s comments: we are not talking about building permits.  Keep in mind that a lot of property in Ferndale is not subject to covenants, and the county doesn’t enforce covenants.

Sue S.: That’s for structural standards.  There will be a permit for zoning compliance (setbacks, height restriction, etc.).

Brad R.: My only comment is that it may not be today, it could be in the future.

Dave Seymour: This planning area is not setting rules.  The County is still going to be the government body.  This planning/zoning area is going to be an intermediary so that local people can express their views and communicate them to the County.  If you don’t like it, don’t sit on your ass and complain about it, get out there and vote and get those guys out.  With this process, we are not going to give up our rights, we’ll get somebody to fight for our rights with the County.  When I started going to the meetings, I just started out skeptical and going to the meetings to see what’s going on, and I really went to just watch, but there’s nothing set in stone, watching the leader lead the group through the process, and that what we are going to get out of this is more gain.  For me I appreciate it.

Kathryn Berg: Our goal is to protect what we have, because we love what we’ve got.  In other areas, there has been that cheap ralph lauren polo shirts slippery slope where zoning goes in where there were a few restrictions, and later there are hundreds of them.  Are there safeguards against that?

Leslie B.: Five year mandatory review and amendment process.  In our guidelines for interpretation and application, we can actually say something, like “least regulation possible to meet community’s goals,” it’s not binding, but we can put that language in if it’s consistent with the County’s growth policy.

Jake Stack:  Regarding grandfathering/termination: if the current use doesn’t meet the planned uses, then the grandfathered process keeps it in place, unless you try to change it or it idles for six months.  Do you not lose some property rights in that situation?

Sue S.: Existing situation, someone on east shore whose property was commercial, any use when zoning created continues in perpetuity, when it was amended, it was changed to if it ceases to be managed that way for a period of six months, it loses its ability to continue.  Owner came in, said he bought that property because of that entitlement, and the Commissioners gave him a conditional use, with that designation and that he can continue a similar use and modify it so long as he deals with all the impacts that could be associated with that use.  People need to watch that process to stay engaged and know what is occurring.  But they just as well could have said no. 

Jake: Conditional use to do what he was always able to do. 

Unidentified Speaker: If a building is destroyed by fire, then would the rebuilding of that structure have to conform?

Bill Barron: If 50% of it burned down, it might not. 

Sue S.: Questioned that, thinking that if ceases to be used for six months, you can’t, but within then, you might not. 

Martin Miller: This can conflict with what the insurance will allow you to do.

Brad R.: Why is the process that it then goes down to the County Commissioners to vote on it, rather than the affected property owners? 

Leslie B.: State law does not require a vote and we understand that the County Commissioners will not pay for an election because it’s not required. 

Sue S.: It’s their decision, if they heard from the discussion that the public wanted a vote, then it probably could be.  But there is a protest provision in state law that if 50% of freeholders protest the establishment of the district, then it would be prohibited from continuing. 

7/22/09  Meeting, Held at Brumar Estates:

Record of comments following meeting introduction by Chair Leslie Budewitz and other presenters.  Please note that comments may not be exactly verbatim but we did our best to accurately capture the comments and speakers’ identities.

Mary Hoosey: Isn’t there supposed to be a special procedure and don’t you have to have a vote to form a district? 

Leslie B.: We are following the procedures laid out by the County; County law doesn’t require an election.

Don Pearson: Asked about elections for this. 

Lake County Commissioner Bill Barron: The County Commissioners would not pay for an election unless there was a very strong reason for it.  The County Commission does require that the proponents show a strong community support.  Some question whether we can require an election.  We do require showing of strong community support.

Shirley Dempsey: Who is your advisory committee and how are they chosen? 

Leslie B.: No Advisory Council currently, just a working a committee working on the process and anyone can assist. 

Shirley: Just wants to know who is in charge of these decisions and who chose them, and who has authority to make decisions? 

Leslie B.: We chose ourselves due to the responses from the survey. 

Shirley: People do not want one little group of people.

Dean Becksted:  Lives in Red Owl, what if you don’t want to be zoned in that area?  Why did you include us, and how do we get out if you don’t want to? 

Leslie B.: Came up with the map to go from County line to County line to the lake, and that was how we came up with the proposed district.  We talked with the County Planning staff, and it seemed like a manageable area, and it seemed wise to include all the roaded areas.  If people in the area want to get out and speak up in the public process, we would certainly take that into account.  It might create some heartburn for the planning department if certain streets or roads wanted to get out.  We might have to reconsider boundaries in that case.

Michael Whistler:  Thanks for all the hard work your group is doing, I certainly recognize it even if I don’t agree.  Grew up in a place with lots of zoning and planning, and my dad was a building inspector.  When we moved up here, we were in a place where we couldn’t build up the operations we wanted to build up to.  Makes me feel kind of bad that I’m the successful property and I’m the guy that you don’t want.  We moved to Ferndale because we wanted unzoned property and we are glad to keep it that way. 

Leslie B.: Thank you for speaking out; I don’t want you to think we are pointing the arrow at you, just because you have one of the more visible types of businesses, and we are glad you are there to do business with.  You also know there are conflicts right in your neighborhood, arising out of conflicts from having commercial uses in residential neighborhoods.  We don’t want to eliminate home-based businesses or working out of our homes (cited examples). 

Mark Cantrell: It appears that the area you’re talking about zoning is a very [large?] area. 

Leslie B: Clarified the number of surveys we sent out (1215), noting that if someone owned multiple properties, we sent one.  16% response. 

Mark C.: So only a few hundred people have responded.  What kind of response is the County looking for before they would be willing to adopt zoning? 

Sue Shannon: Provision in state law that addresses the community’s ability to protest a zoning.  If 40% of the freeholders in the district, or freeholders representing 50% of titled property ownership if property is taxed for agricultural purposes, protest the establishment of zoning, the County Commissioners cannot adopt the zoning, and further zoning cannot be proposed for 1 year.  We want to see 60% of the freeholders. 

Mark C.: What are freeholders? 

Anne Moran: Noted that if the legal definition has not changed recently, she understood it to be that free-holders are individuals (not corporations) who have title to a property.  If a lot is owned by six people, there are then six “freeholder” signatures possible on a zoning petition.  If the property is held by a corporation, the corporation has one signature (regardless of number of lots held).

Mark C.: What is total number of properties? 

Leslie B.: Approximately 1700 properties. 

Mark C.: A lot of the area along Swan Lake has been developed; what are you trying to accomplish with development on that? 

Pat Smith: I know there are some other situations that occurred, for example, over in Lakeside, where areas have been developed, and then someone comes in and buys it up, and there is nothing to prevent someone from doing something similar.  We are not trying to stop anything per se, but we are trying to keep our community spirit together.  Trying to make sure that the development that does happen is in tune with what we want to see in the area.   

Mark C.: For this to pass, they are looking for 1100-1200 property owners to support the zoning. 

Sue S.: I don’t know the specific numbers; not sure they would include the existing zoning districts or not; so that would affect the total.  The County Commissioners want a feeling that if the staff is going to put a great deal of time and effort toward it, we want to know that the community feels it is desirable to have the district.

George Field: Did I understand you to say “agricultural” area? 

Sue S: Said yes, 40% of freeholders, or 50% of the land taxed for agricultural purposes. 

Brad Reedstrom: (from Ferndale): There is another solution, and that solution is what we currently have in place.  In one form or another you are giving up your property rights, and I take that very seriously.    The current system that we have, we have density zoning, so if you are concerned about how much can be developed around you, it says how much can be developed per acre.  If you have concerns about other issues, there are covenants, and I agree that the solution is to get more involved, you can work with your neighbors and your homeowners’ association to make them more strict and enforced.   I truly believe that we the people that own our land are much better at saying what we could or should do with it than the government, and once we create this use zoning, you now put into place a situation where now the County Commissioners can say what you can and cannot do on your property.  I have no problem with the three County Commissioners now but we don’t know about who the future commissioners will be, or what the County Attorney’s interpretation of those rules will be.  Once we put it out of our hands and into their hands, you have to live with whatever rules and regulations they make for your property.  We are isolated here and living with what commissioners from Ronan, Polson, and St Ignatius determine.  Those of us in Ferndale know better [could not hear rest of this comment]. I would hope that if it does go to the County Commissioners that the public would be allowed to vote on it, but not just be allowed to be decided by a few people. 

Peter Leander: I’ve been embroiled in this, it took me 2 ½ years to deal with the situation on Kootenai Lodge; none of us liked it.  And that is what will happen if we don’t have a set of rules that we can participate in and that we have a voice in.  Then those County Commissioners today and ten years from now have to follow what we said.  The density map is fine but I think Sue Shannon will tell you it is sort of a general conceptual map.  We need to make sure cheap ralph lauren t shirts that they are somehow codified or put into some kind of form that whether it is Paddy Trusler today, or Joe Schmoe in the future, we have some kind of predictability.  I think this process may accomplish what you want, because when we went up before the commissioners, we didn’t know what will happen, and they didn’t, either, because we didn’t have any guidelines. I don’t think any of us want to leave our families, our investments up in the air like that.

Mary Goosey: What about Swan Lake? Your maps don’t provide Township and Range, and it’s hard to tell. 

Leslie B.: Mile Marker 74 or south.

Dave Ensign: Just liked what Peter said, and can we provide some comment about mission and purpose, because this is a great story about what is occurring in our neighborhood.  We don’t know what this nameless official will do, and we do know our property, but we don’t know how long we’ll be here anyway.  But if you are going to be gone tomorrow, because you are the best stewards of what you want done in your property. 

Brad R.: It is so hard to know what is needed for the future.  Gave cabinet shop example. So I don’t think you can ever make a rule that knows what the future is. 

Dave E.: So you should go for commercial on your property. 

Leslie B.: Not necessarily; it is clear to all of us on the committee that some sort of home-based business is so integral to the community, we would anticipate that our regulations would provide for that, with the exception of some areas in Woods Bay that are developed too densely already.  We also discussed conditional use permitting as a process to allow for some additional flexibility.  We can’t always predict what will happen, but we can provide some predictability for the future. 

Brad R.: That’s my property and that’s my right, but we don’t know who will be there in the future and it is the giving of the property rights and transfer it into the government’s hands.

Mark Manders: Aren’t you grandfathered in?  Don’t we have grandfathering? 

Leslie B. Existing uses would be grandfathered, future uses wouldn’t. 

Mark M.: I am kind of in Brad’s viewpoint here.  Isn’t it totally. . . different uses for different kinds of things.  You do what you have to do with your property.  And that’s why I came to Montana, because you can do just about what you have/like/want to do to survive.  It’s a terribly complicated situation, and it is ridiculous; there is no need for it unless you have an outcrop of something major, like a used parts place right next to your property.  America was built on small things and that is where you are headed.  I was president of two associations.  It’s a dead-end road no matter which way you look at it.

Bill Barron: I’m the newest County Commissioner and I am the County Commissioner for this District.  And Paddy Trusler, Ronan district, owns property in the Swan and while it’s not in this District, he’s very concerned about it.  I could get the information on this area from Sue, but this is hugely important and it is why we came.  Property rights and gun rights are very important to me.  That’s why you see the statutes where zoning can be voted down.  County Commissioners are neutral on this.  We listen to everything, we gather everything, and then we make a decision on which way we go.  You can argue that zoning protects you from the County Commissioners, and you can make the opposite decision.  You have give and take; you may give up some rights in order to gain other rights.  You need to come, get educated, and cast your vote on what works best.  Density and zoning can change.  Every five years, they are reviewed.  There is nothing set in stone on this.  And the bottom line is that the County Commissioners still have authority to grant things that are contrary to zoning map or density issues.  You can file for grievances or variances for these things; if you get two County Commissioners to go along with you, it can be done.  These things are not just set in stone.  Covenants are a more difficult issue; you have to go to court to get it settled, and you can’t get involved without a court order; unfortunately law enforcement can’t get involved until then; with a zoned area, law enforcement can get involved.  If a Committee were formed, according to how it is set up, the commissioners would appoint people to fill the seats.  But as far as people having a say, I can tell you that in the short time I’ve been involved, on our committees we have trouble getting people to fill the seats; if you want to be on a committee and have a say and you want to be heard, I can get you on it.  In the zoned areas, we do not get calls with disputes between neighbors on land issues.  Outside the zoned areas, we have neighbors shooting each other, shooting windows, etc.; officers get involved in very serious altercations.  You have to look at the issues.  You have to listen and be educated, so that when the day comes to make a decision, you can do so based on being educated, because it is important.  Brad asked me. . .how does it end up, it finally ends up in the County Commission’s lap.  And yes, that’s an important time, but the most important time is right now.  Needs to be addressed early-on. 

Brad R.: Unless you let us vote on it. 

Bill Barron: Personally, it would take more than 50/50 for me to vote in zoning and the law backs it up. 

Don Kirby: What about the cost of this? 

Bill Barron: We have costs in it now (like Sue Shannon being up here now) but the County does not get enough financial reward to pay for the costs.  Swan Sites would be a good example where the one Peter spoke of earlier, if there was zoning on the property, the County would have been much more secure in that litigation.  This is why the County makes the investment.

Tracy R.: I just wanted to ask Bill as far as the County Commission goes, does the Advisory Council [couldn’t hear rest of question].

Bill B.: In general the Advisory Council input would be given more credibility, but if it goes through a process the way it should, by the time it gets to the County Commission, it is an issue that you work on for everybody.    [Couldn’t hear rest of response.]