The Legacy Ranch Subdivision is coming up for review by the Ravalli County Commissioners in a few days. There is no question in our minds here at the Bitterroot Star that this decision represents a turning point in the destiny of the Lone Rock community. We hope the County Commissioners recognize this as well.
If you listen to what the people of the Lone Rock community are saying, to allow this development sounds the death knell of the history, culture, and tradition of this rural community that they have maintained and nurtured there for over a century. Although many concerns were expressed at the Planning Board’s meetings in Lone Rock about the potential impacts of the subdivision on the six criteria enumerated in state law, one refrain was almost universally expressed that is not covered in state law, and that is the devastating effect it may have on the rural character of the community.
Some people simply shrug off those complaints, like one recent letter writer in our paper who wrote about those people’s concerns, saying that the “present atmosphere reflects a greedy ‘I got mine, you can’t have yours’ attitude that is demeaning. If I was to believe most of the letters to the editors about Legacy Ranch and the media reporting of it, I would think it will be doom and gloom if 625 more families move into the area proposed. …The letters seem to claim that 300 people at a meeting are a majority and that there are no people at all who support Legacy Ranch and that seems to be the theme of media reports as well.”
If it is the theme of media reports, it is because it happened. Three hundred people from the community showed up and not a one spoke in favor of the subdivision.
Mr. Erickson also grossly misrepresents the atmosphere at the meeting. It was definitely not one of a roomful of greedy people. Concerned, maybe even frightened, but definitely not greedy. Neither did anyone claim that the 300 people who showed up in opposition necessarily represent a “majority” of people in the Lone Rock area. But after 26 years of covering community news and subdivision reviews, I can safely say that we have heard from “the heart” of the Lone Rock community. As one of the locals put it at the meeting, you can hardly get anyone in Lone Rock to agree about anything. But that night about three hundred had come together in total agreement that this subdivision was not good for their community. In fact, it was going to so change their community that it wouldn’t be the same one that they have nurtured and loved all these years.
Does that matter?
Even the proponents of the subdivision mostly admit that it will change the character of the community beyond recognition and usher it into a more urban age. But they also believe it’s inevitable. You can’t stop development. If not this subdivision, then a dozen or two that add up to the same, it is destined to happen. And after all, a person has a right to do whatever they want with their own property.
But is it a person doing this? Mr. Erickson claims that it is his friends, the Mortons, doing this and they are not evil people. We believe him. But technically it is Sunnyside Orchards, LLC, a development company registered in Wyoming that is doing this. So the question many Lone Rock residents are asking is, what gives some out of state company the right to come in and change the very character of their community so dramatically and against their will?
When the County Commissioners saw our county residents get surrounded by packs of wolves that they believe threatened to destroy the existing “culture, history and tradition” of the Bitterroot Valley, they didn’t sit by and simply bow down to federal and state edicts. They took up the cause of local residents who believed they were suffering from unwanted and very negative impacts that threatened to change their lives and their lifestyles and set a policy to defend the “culture, custom and tradition” of the local people. They did the same when they determined that federal law and policy governing natural resources was not necessarily in the best interests of the county residents and once again they set a local policy to protect and preserve the citizens’ “culture, custom and tradition” from unwanted changes. Will they step up and do the same for the Lone Rock community?
The Lone Rock community, in an unprecedented show of solidarity, is asking the County Commissioners to protect their “culture, custom and tradition” just as vehemently. They are asking for a chance at self-determination in the future of their community. They can’t understand why a single out-of-state company should be able to drop a town with no municipal services into their midst and forever change the destiny of their rural community.
We can’t either.
This is not simply a matter of one company’s project proceeding or not. The fate of an entire community is a stake and the outcome, we have to believe, is not inevitable. At this point that decision lies in the hands of our County Commissioners. If it was in the hands of the Lone Rock community, I can tell you what the decision would be. They couldn’t have made it any plainer.