Within minutes of the Ravalli County Commissioners passing revised and amended regulations for subdivision development, a local group filed a petition with the Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder to have them repealed.
Voters Opportunity To Educate (VOTE) formed in early 1999 “to provide support for the county commissioners and as a way to provide information to the public on county government and issues affecting government,” according to group secretary Howard Lyons.
The largely conservative group holds monthly meetings with speakers on a variety of topics and has hosted candidate forums. This is the first time the group has sought to overturn an action by the county commissioners.
“We just didn’t think the subdivision regs were ready for passage,” Lyons explains. “Parts weren’t legal. Others were poorly written and need more clarification.”
The commissioners had held a series of public meetings over the past two months about the subdivision rules. Parts of the regulations met with heavy opposition from large landowners and developers—particularly some stipulations that require large subdivisions to pave from the subdivision entrance to the nearest paved county road.
“In the June primary, the voters made it very clear they want the opportunity to vote on land-planning issues,” Lyons says, referring to a public opinion poll on the June 6 ballot on which 72 percent of voters indicated they wanted to vote on any eventual countywide growth policy. “It’s bad legislation and the only control we have over them is the petition process.”
The petition must be reviewed and approved by the clerk and recorder, and the county attorney. When it passes that inspection, it will be returned to VOTE, which will then have 90 days to gather signatures to place it on the ballot. With 15 percent of the county voters’ signatures—about 3,500—the recall would be placed on the next general election ballot. If 25 percent of the voters—about 5,800—sign the petition, the group can request a special election.
“As an end result, we hope to delay the implementation of the regulations and send a message to county government to pay attention to the voters of the county,” Lyons says. “We want to put the regulations on hold until they are refined, clarified and approved by the voters.”