The Ravalli County commissioners have certainly wasted no time in enacting the latest piece of their policy plans. Continuing a plan put forth by outgoing commissioners, the new commission followed through with a plan to allow new construction in the floodplain.
You can read about the history of the regulations and some of the testimony HERE.
This overturns a prohibition put in place 18 years ago. That’s right, they’ve eliminated a policy that was put in place nearly two decades ago. The regulation prohibiting construction in the floodplain reflects the unique nature of the Bitterroot River. Unlike many rivers in our state, the Bitterroot River moves around considerably from year to year. A good snow year and a quick melt often leads to flooding and changes in the river’s path.
One has to wonder what the inspiration for this radical change was. There has not been an overwhelming rush of applications for a variance to the previous regulation. There hasn’t been any public request for a change. Were developers asking for this change? Was Terry Nelson, head of the county planning department and himself a developer receiving numerous requests for variances? None of this information was presented at any of the meetings about the change in policy.
The Bitterroot River is an economic engine for Ravalli County. It brings in tourism dollars in a way that few other attractions in the county can. It is now at risk because the commissioners’ short-sighted decision.
What’s even more reflective of this commission however is the fact that the decision was made despite unanimous objection of the public at the meetings. Not a single person voiced support for changing the regulation. Not one argument was voiced supporting the change. The commission sat stoically listening to the public then ignored them and followed through with their plan. It’s hard to call this representative government.