By Michael Howell
The initial hearing of the Legacy Ranch subdivision proposal held by the Ravalli County Planning Board two weeks ago was continued at the Lone Rock School gymnasium last Wednesday. Of close to fifty people who showed up the first time, not a person testified in favor of the subdivision proposal. At the second meeting, between 250 and 300 people showed up to give the Planning Board the same message: just say no. The reasons were manifold, but the conclusion was apparently the same.
The proximity of the proposed development to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, a multi-million dollar asset to the local economy, was, once again, a common refrain. Another common refrain was that the development, which proposes 639 residential units and a potential population of 1,700 new residents at build out, if approved, would sound the death knell for the Lone Rock community.
Indeed, public complaints were registered about the potential negative effects to all of the state criteria under consideration. They included concerns about the loss of agricultural land, the effects on traffic, not only on the Eastside Highway, but on other associated roadways including Three Mile, Porter Hill and Dry Gulch roads, on the schools, on emergency services, on the aquifer and on the Bitterroot River, which is located only 406 feet from the development site. Concerns about the effect of lighting on wildlife in the refuge, as well as all the dogs and cats that would be housed right next door to the Refuge, effects of pharmaceuticals on the amphibians and fish in the wetlands of the refuge, effects on senior water right holders by the massive water withdrawal required for what amounts to a town without any of the services that towns generally offer, were also voiced repeatedly.
No one spoke in favor of the subdivision proposal and the Planning Board members, themselves, did not discuss any issues. The Board simply listened to the public comment. The Planning Board does aim to have a board discussion of the issues at its next meeting scheduled for today, Wednesday, March 20, at 3 p.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room. Although the board was asked to consider meeting in the Lone Rock community for their discussion and decision concerning the subdivision, it was decided on a 5 to 3 vote to hold it in Hamilton instead.