Libby nixes contentious proposed zoning changes

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The most contentious of proposed changes to downtown Libby zoning were struck by the city’s Ordinance Committee during its Oct. 16 meeting.

The committee agreed not to propose prohibiting “auto, truck, mobile or manufactured home, and trailer sales,” or “other vehicle-related services.”

Though the proposed prohibitions would only have applied to new construction or proposed new uses for existing properties and services, some business owners protested them at the Sept. 17 meeting of the Libby City Council.

That night, Tom Gilmore of Northwest Motorsports, noting that his business falls under more than one of the proposed prohibited uses, said “it hurts [and] makes me feel unappreciated,” and said he would like any zoning revisions to address expansion and transfer of ownership, among other items.

Gilmore was among roughly 70 people who attended the Sept. 17 meeting and one of about 15 who addressed the City Council.

A few dozen people attended the Oct. 16 Ordinance Committee meeting to watch as committee members and councilors Kristin Smith, Peggy Williams and Brian Zimmerman began hashing out the proposed zoning revisions, which include creating a Downtown Business District distinct from the Highway Commercial District.

In addition to striking the Downtown Business District’s most controversial aspects, the committee addressed a handful of other concerns that business owners had raised.

One of those concerns dealt with adding a “grandfather clause” to the proposal to clarify “what rules apply to whom and when.” Smith said at the meeting that an existing city provision covering non-conforming uses addresses those concerns, and therefore there would be no need to add such a provision to zoning laws.

Committee members believed two other concerns — those of expansion and transfer of ownership — were rendered moot by the striking of the aforementioned items, as the concerns had been raised by businesses currently engaged in those proposed prohibited uses.

Though proposed revisions cover more than creating a Downtown Business District, the committee focused only on that aspect in the one hour allotted.

Smith noted that there will be more opportunities for people to provide feedback as the zoning proposals make their way through the committee process.

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