Bitterrooters for Planning filed suit Friday against the Ravalli County Commission’s decision to provide a third extension to a subdivision east of Florence.
The lawsuit claims the commission essentially rubber-stamped the developer’s request without adequate review or notice to the public.
The suit marks the second time the county has been sued over the proposed 58-lot Morado Mountain Estate subdivision just off Eight Mile Creek Road 6 miles east of Florence.
The developer of the subdivision, which was first proposed in 2006, sued the county in 2008 after the commission denied a variance. In 2010, a district rule ruled the county’s decision to turn down the variance was “arbitrary and capricious.”
In 2013, the county agreed to pay the developer $300,000 over a five-year period to settle the lawsuit.
The commission gave preliminary approval for the subdivision in 2011. Before approval of a final plat, the developer was required to meet 20 conditions.
The Bitterrooters for Planning lawsuit said the developer has not accomplished any of the conditions so far.
The developer, Stacey Dykeman of Missoula, requested and received extensions in 2012 and 2016 after citing poor economic conditions for moving forward with the subdivision.
On March 21, Dykeman again cited “the costs of development and the current market prices” as the reason for a third three-year extension. The commission voted unanimously to approve the request.
Bitterrooters for Planning said the commission’s six-day notice of the March 21 meeting didn’t allow for its members to participate at the hearing in person to provide comments.
The group also claimed the commission did not have up-to-date information to consider, relied on information that wasn’t included in the public record, and failed to consider public input before making its decision.
“Local governments are required not only to permit and afford citizens’ reasonable opportunity to participate in and observe the government decision-making process, but must secure and encourage the public’s exercise of these most fundamental constitutional and statutory rights by establishing procedures that assist and provide adequate notice of meetings to citizens who wish to share their views before the government makes a final decision,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said that because the commission lacked sufficient information to conduct an appropriate review of the extension request, the court should void the county’s March 21 decision as “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.”
It also asked the court for an order enjoining the commission from granting another preliminary plat extension for the proposed development.
Ravalli County Commission Chris Hoffman said Wednesday he had not seen the lawsuit.