The article titled "County to get zoning overhaul" (March 9) mischaracterized the zoning status of the KettleHouse Amphitheater. The article incorrectly asserted that the KettleHouse Amphitheater did not have the authority to operate under the current zoning regulation.
Logjam Presents, the owner of the KettleHouse Amphitheater improvements and operator of the venue, has been working closely with the Missoula County Zoning Department since November, 2016. The KettleHouse Amphitheater has presented iterations of the architectural drawings to Missoula County throughout the design process.
The zoning regulation that existed prior to March 9, 2017, allowed for the KettleHouse Amphitheater to conduct events with a limited infrastructure (as the Big Sky Brewery has done for over 10 years). Infrastructure such as permanent concession areas and permanent bathrooms were not permitted under the zoning regulation that existed prior to the passage of the March 9 zoning changes. Missoula County Zoning Department and the KettleHouse Amphitheater had reached an agreement that if the zoning changes were not passed on March 9, 2017, the KettleHouse Amphitheater could proceed with the limited infrastructure design concept. At no time was a show booked, or were tickets sold, without an understanding between Missoula County Zoning Department and the KettleHouse Amphitheater.
The KettleHouse Amphitheater postponed submitting for its final building permit in anticipation of the passage of the March 9 zoning changes. That said, the KettleHouse Amphitheater had obtained the required permits and approvals to complete its mass excavation, rough grading and other retaining wall work. The KettleHouse Amphitheater was proceeding with construction in a manner that would allow it to complete the venue with either the full infrastructure or limited infrastructure, depending on the outcome of the March 9 zoning meeting.
On March 9, the Missoula County Commissioners approved several zoning changes. These changes allow for the KettleHouse Amphitheater to proceed with the more robust design concept that includes a more permanent infrastructure. The KettleHouse Amphitheater intends to submit for a full building permit on March 13.
Overall, the KettleHouse Amphitheater has collaborated with the Missoula County Zoning Department, Missoula County Health Department, Missoula County Building Department, the Conservation District, not-for-profit organizations such as the Blackfoot Challenge and the Clark Fork Coalition, and other regulatory bodies to obtain all entitlements and support required to design, develop and construct a world class venue. We take issue with the characterization in the March 9 article that we proceeded without the required zoning to conduct shows in the new venue. While the limited infrastructure design would have been less ideal and detracted from the artist and concert goer experience, it would have been sufficient for our first year of operations. We delayed our final building plan submittal to utilize the zoning changes and have the opportunity to construct a more robust venue.
No to Gorsuch
As the co-founder of a Missoula-based technology company, Gatherboard, which licenses calendar software for communities across the West, I was disappointed to see the Montana Chamber of Commerce's recent endorsement of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Judge Neil Gorsuch's record certainly does not represent the best interests of my business. I encourage Sens. Daines and Tester to take a hard look at Gorsuch's record.
Like many small business owners, I'm wary of being forced to sign binding arbitration agreements imposed by giant companies in order to conduct business. Most Montana businesses I'm familiar with don't even use such binding arbitration agreements. However, the trend, which Gorsuch apparently supports, is toward forcing individuals to go to arbitration rather than before a court, to resolve disputes with massive corporations.
In Ragab v. Howard, entrepreneur Sami Ragab filed a lawsuit against an investment bank and capital financing company for misrepresentation and violating consumer credit repair laws that helped him obtain startup capital. The companies demanded arbitration, but there were six different and irreconcilable agreements about arbitration, and the court recognized there had never been a "meeting of the minds"a basic principle of contract law. Judge Gorsuch dissented, arguing for a "workaround" so the companies could impose arbitration on Ragab.
Much has been made of Gorsuch's employer-friendly record, but it appears that he's only for giant corporations, not regular business people and entrepreneurs. It's telling that he supported Hobby Lobby in citing the company's "sincerely held religious beliefs" as an excuse for denying women employees birth control insurance. Montanans do not believe corporations are people, and we expect our senators to support justices that don't either.
Getting up to PACE
The Montana Legislature is considering an important bill to benefit homeowners and businesses interested in improving energy efficiency and lowering power bills. Introduced by Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, and supported by Governor Steve Bullock, SB 330 authorizes Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing and would empower local government programs that support energy efficiency, clean energy and water conservation projects. PACE is voluntary and would allow property owners to pick local contractors for improvements and pay through long-term, low interest loans linked to energy savings. Repayment would be coordinated through city or county property assessors much in the same way sidewalk and sewer upgrades are repaid over the long term. By lowering up-front and long-term expenses, PACE will save property owners money on power bills, conserve energy and water, and put local contractors to work. SB 330 authorizes the PACE program without costing the state any money, and participation is determined at the local level by city or county officials. Thirty-three states have already authorized PACE programs and more are in the process. Let's help property owners and contractors in Montana save money and create jobs—support SB 330, Montana PACE.