Recently, a BfP member asked several questions regarding our three lawsuits: Legacy Ranch which, as you know, we won, and the two still pending: Grantsdale Addition and Blood Lane (Wal-Mart). I thought I’d send out the answers to the entire membership, post on Facebook and the website.
Q: When will there be a decision regarding the B4P request to have the (Grantsdale Addition) permit voided (as noted in the August 15 posting “Update on Grantsdale groundwater discharge permit”).
A: Oral arguments are scheduled for Sept. 24 in Helena. The case was filed in Lewis and Clark County because the defendant in the case, Department of Environmental Quality, is based there. Oral arguments are scheduled for 2 p.m. Several board members will likely be there, and members, of course, are invited and encouraged to attend.
Q: What is the status of the Blood Lane issue? Has the court process begun?
Oral arguments are scheduled for 9 a.m. on Nov. 23, again in Helena, for the same reason as above.
Q: And is it truly the end of Legacy Ranch since the July 31 court ruling that nullified county approval of it? And will the county have to pay B4P’s court costs since they lost?
A: The county commission has met twice since the court decision to discuss the possibility of an appeal, but they’ve made no decision. The developers, Sunnyside Orchards, LLC, were also defendants in the case, but they have not filed an appeal. I believe this ends the case. Of course, if we hear anything different you’ll know right away.
The question regarding fees is more complicated. Court fees are not automatically awarded to the prevailing party in a civil case. The prevailing party’s attorney must petition the court for fees, but can do so only under certain circumstances. Here is the pertinent sentence from the petition: “An award of fees is appropriate when litigants serve the public interest by holding government bodies accountable to statutes that vindicate important public rights.”
Our attorney filed a petition for fees in August, but no court hearing date has been scheduled as of yet. I’ve attached the petition to this email, so you can read it for yourself. When we know more, we’ll let the membership know.
This is the second brief filed by B4P counsel in our lawsuit challenging DEQ’s groundwater discharge permit for the Grantsdale Additions subdivision.
Bitterrooters ask that the Court determine DEQ acted unlawfully by failing to follow the statute and regulations in granting an exemption to non-degradation review. DEQ’s decision was arbitrary and capricious in light of the voluminous public comments raising concerns about nutrient pollution that DEQ failed to address in its decision-making process. Failing to complete a non-degradation analysis that includes the consideration of cumulative impacts from increased groundwater discharge in the Bitterroot Basin. The Court should find the DEQ’s approval of the Grantsdale groundwater discharge permit both arbitrary and capricious, and violation of § 75-5-
301(5), MCA, and Admin. R. M. 17.30.715(2). Bitterrooters request the Court declare the Permit void and remand the matter to DEQ for consideration of impacts to surface waters as required by statute cumulative effects and degradation of the Bitterroot River.
Read the entire document below
Bitterrooters for Planning wins major lawsuit against Ravalli Coun
Local non-profit advocacy group Bitterrooters for Planning won a significant legal victory with a July 31 court ruling that nullified county approval of the largest residential subdivision in Ravalli County’s history.
B4P challenged Ravalli County’s August 2014 approval of the 639-home Legacy Ranch subdivision adjacent to the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge in Stevensville.
Read more…. Read more…Legacy_Ranch_OPINIONANDORDER.pdf
Excerpt “This case presents important issues of first impression regarding DEQ’s obligation to protect surface waters from pollution generated by subdivision waste – water. DEQ violated the plain language of §75-5-301, MCA, by failing to assess the potential for surface water impacts even though the subdivision will discharge up to 60,000 gallons of sewage with high concentrations of nutrient pollution each day into the shallow, rapidly moving groundwater aquifer close to the Bitterroot River. DEQ failed to gather any site specific data about ground – surface water connectivity. DEQ then failed to respond to the voluminous evidence the public provided on hydrologic connectivity. Read more…. Read more…June 26 Grantsdale Addition briefing.pdf
The county commission meeting scheduled for Thursday March 12, to consider public notice and participation policy is for the commission to consider adopting the changes requested by the Bitterroot Star in our settlement proposal over the Big Sky Development lawsuit.
It will be a meeting where the public can voice their opinion over that $675,000 settlement.
If the commissioners adopt them as proposed with no changes the Star’s lawsuit against the commission will be dismissed. It is very important for the public to attend.
Below is a note from B4P:
Greetings all, Please read the message above from Michael Howell. This meeting takes place at 10 a.m. on March 12. It’s imperative that we can get as many people to attend this as possible. To remind you: the previous commission met behind closed doors to cut a deal with the attorney representing Paul Wilson, a land developer who sued Ravalli County over a commission decision (the commission on which Jim Rokosch, Kathleen Driscoll and I sat) to reject his proposal to use the county road department to bring Eight Mile Creek Road up to legally-required standards. He pledged to buy the materials. The law required him to pay for both materials and work crew. We rejected his proposal, he sued and the judge remanded the decision back to the Foss-Stoltz-Burrows commission. The commission agreed to the Wilson proposal AND awarded him $675,000. The judge was shocked, the original county lawyers were shocked. The Bitterroot Star sued the county over a decision that was made under shady circumstances. Before the lawsuit could progress very far, the county paid the lion’s share of the $675,000. It’s on your most recent tax bill. I don’t know the specifics of the Star proposal, but I do have faith in the Howells. They’ve been on this smoky-room decision since the beginning and I urge your attendance and support. I’ve asked Michael Howell for some specifics to pass on to you. I’m also expecting some information from Glenda Wiles, admin. asst. for the commission, on Monday.
This is a video of Attorney Jack Tuholske speaking January 28, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the Bedford Building in Hamilton, Mont. Jack is Montana’s leading public interest and environmental law attorney. His topic is: The Road We Must Travel: Environmental Law in the 21st Century.
Video was taken by Kelsey Milner for Bitterrooters for Planning.
Below is the legal complaint filed by Bitterrooters for Planning and the Bitterroot River Protection Association against the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for its water pollution permit for a proposed large-scale retail establishment on Blood Lane.