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County OKs controversial subdivision

| December 7, 2006 11:00 PM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Lincoln County Commissioners on Wednesday approved a controversial subdivision for a 70-acre housing development on Farm to Market Road near Libby City-County Airport.

The approval comes with 19 conditions for developers George Wood, Mike Munro and Don Brown. One involves providing $1 million liability insurance if there are problems with a ditch to divert possible flooding.

The developers, who plan to divide the land into 16 lots ranging from 1.5 to 6.5 acres, have 30 days to appeal conditions.

"We're not sure," Wood said after the commissioners' meeting. "We haven't read them yet."

Andrew Foote, one of 52 people who signed a petition against the development, was disappointed with the decision by commissioners Rita Windom, Marianne Roose and John Konzen.

Foote's main concern is for flooding from the McMillan watershed. A neighbor and spokesman for the McMillan Neighborhood Conservation Alliance and Homeowners Association, Foote said they would not appeal the decision.

"We'll probably just let the water flow and see what happens," he said.

According to Foote, the area has experienced flooding in the 1930s, 1970s and 1990s.

Part of the problem was created in 1945, after an Army B-24 bomber made an emergency landing in the Amish pasture down to Libby Creek. To fly the bomber out, a 4,200-foot runway was built in the field with bulldozers and other heavy equipment.

Irrigation ditches crossing the field were filled or diverted. A one-time 1,000-acre flood plain was condensed into an 80-acre piece of property with no place for the creek to go, Foote had told The Western News.

Rain and spring run-off has caused water to run over Farm to Market Road. In 1997, flooding water came within a few feet of basements adjacent to the property proposed for development, according to the petition. Two to three feet of water flowed through the Amish hayfield to the Amish store and down to Hammer Cutoff. Dozens of neighbors sandbagged and dug emergency ditches.

A state official had recommended that commissioners study the chances for a 100-year flood in the area.

"The 100-year flood delineation falls within the channel they've constructed," said Mary Klinkam, director for the county planning department. "It went through review by Soil and Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers. They did everything they need to do to construct that channel."

The channel also was studied for a 500-year flood, "which is way beyond any requirements."

"It does hold the 500-year flood," Klinkam said.

That's where the $1 million insurance policy comes in - in case there is a problem, she said.