“Ass,” echoed a soft voice from the crowd as Jim Edwards walked back from the podium.

Edwards had just finished unloading a rant upon several neighbors who spoke against his proposed subdivision, Trout Meadows, at a Sept. 17 public hearing of the Missoula County Commission. The project, if approved, would drop 69 lots on 317 acres of ranchland along Mallard Way in the Target Range. The nearly 2-year-old plan remains before the commission for plat approval with a decision expected in October.

Opponents cited flooding concerns, expectations of burgeoning traffic on the rural road and an ongoing desire to maintain the area’s agrarian character as principal beefs. Mel Waggy of the county planning’s Rural Initiatives office also voiced apprehensions regarding the subdivision’s affect on riparian habitat.

Edwards sat calmly until the end of a lengthy public comment period. He began his response diplomatically before simmering into the gusto that characterized his controversial run for the commission in 2006. Edwards proceeded to accuse several of his neighbors of first-degree NIMBYism and claimed that some have their own code violations to deal with.

“These are the people who want to come after me,” Edwards railed. “They want to tell me what to do with my backyard, but they don’t want to take care of their own backyards.”

He then criticized some regulatory agencies, including Rural Initiatives, of running up the cost of his project with doublespeak on uncertain development requirements. “This Rural Initiatives gal, we could never sit in the same room—we’d butt heads all day,” Edwards said, referring to Waggy.

“I was a bit taken aback. I almost felt that Mr. Edwards felt that nobody was doing their job if he didn’t get his way,” neighbor Julia Sauter responded.

Many of the neighbors were also among the key objectors to Edward’s bid to open a gravel pit on the same property two years ago. That project failed to gain county approval just weeks after he lost the commissioner’s race to Jean Curtiss, who voted against it. Curtiss—attending to a family emergency—missed the Sept. 17 sequel.

Whatever happens with the property this time, neighbors agree that this plan looks a lot better than the previous incarnation. Still, they say, more proving needs to be done. Edwards must now overcome the substantive objections, nevermind the personal distaste for him.
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