A member of the Ravalli County Planning Board has been served with a cease-and-desist order by the Ravalli County Planning Department, which says Gary Shook has begun developing his land near Hamilton without any of the required permits.
Shook, who owns about 60 acres between U.S. Highway 93 and the Bitterroot River, has recently dug four ponds and constructed a road in an area the county contends is floodplain. In a March 17 letter, his attorney says construction has stopped, but notes that Shook disagrees with the county about whether the area is floodplain, and about whether permits are required.
Laura Henrix, Ravalli County floodplain administrator, said in her March 14 order that she had previously talked with Shook about his project and clarified that floodplain, wetlands and potentially additional permits were required before starting.
But after hearing reports of construction on Shook’s land, she visited the site and confirmed the project lies within regulated floodplain. Besides the direction to cease construction, the order also directs Shook to submit an “after the fact” permit application, which costs $1,000, and specifies further violation will result in daily fines.
Shook, who has served on the Planning Board since January, says he hopes his personal matters won’t affect his work on the planning board.
“We are anxious to get everything resolved…There are issues to be worked out and we’re sincerely pursuing those issues in a way that’s good for everybody,” says Shook, who declined to comment further.
But others say Shook’s alleged violation matters more since he’s a member of the body that helps regulate development in the county.
“I don’t think he can say truthfully to anybody that he didn’t know about this—wouldn’t you think anybody on the planning board should know about these permits?” says Beverly Steiner, a neighbor who says she’s not opposed to the construction, but wants Shook to follow the rules because of the abundant wildlife in the floodplain. “It’s all just a little bit wacky.”