The Missoula County Board of Commissioners wants to stay focused on long-term, regional-scale zoning plans, and not get bogged down with citizen-initiated requests for smaller areas. That message came from its public hearing last Wednesday, when the board denied a request to restrict future development and recreational access at Placid Lake.
“While the county is actively pursuing county-wide zoning, I think we should avoid any potential legal problems,” said Deputy County Attorney James McCubbin at the hearing. He outlined the proposal’s unenforceability, and its overlap with a regional zoning plan being drafted by the Seeley Lake Community Council. “The way it’s written here, people who have their grandparents visit them on the lake can’t let them get to the water and recreate.”
But that wasn’t the intention, according to local residents.
Members of the Placid Lake Cabin Owner’s Association submitted a zoning measure they hoped would keep big developers away from the area by limiting future and existing properties to one dwelling unit per acre, instituting a 100-foot lakeside building buffer, banning private land easements, and prohibiting lakefront properties from providing recreation access.
“We’re not here to prohibit aunts and uncles from using the lake,” said cabin owner Brad Talcott. His real worry: that a developer would buy lakefront parcels to “give lake access to users behind that property.”
The lake’s shorelines are filled with cabins, most built on 1- or 2-acre lots, except on wetland areas on its west and north shores. The parcels surrounding those smaller shorefront spots are owned by the state or Plum Creek, which retains a sizeable multi-acre parcel flanking the southeast shore. Lake residents fear Plum Creek or another developer will use attractive lakefront holdings to join with large-scale developments farther from the lake, bringing more crowds, noise and pollution. And while current zoning prohibits commercial use, Placid Lakers want tighter restrictions.
Commissioners returned the proposal to committee for possible revisions that could pass muster. In the meantime, the Seeley Lake Community Council hopes to complete its own regional zoning plan by October.