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Farm to Market developer balks at conditions

| December 14, 2006 11:00 PM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

A Libby developer has appealed the need to provide $1 million in liability insurance if there are problems with a ditch to divert possible flooding from a 70-acre housing development.

Developer Mike Munro, who is working with George Wood and Don Brown, met with the Lincoln County commissioners on Wednesday. The commissioners one week earlier approved the subdivision on Farm to Market Road near Libby City-County Airport with conditions, including the $1 million insurance.

"We feel like we have done our part and don't see where there's a great liability," Munro told commissioners.

The commissioners will answer that question on Jan. 24.

Wood, Munro and Brown plan to divide the land into 16 lots ranging from 1.5 to 6.5 acres.

Prior to the approval by commissioners Rita Windom, Marianne Roose and John Konzen, 52 people signed a petition against the development. Their main concern was for flooding from the McMillan watershed.

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.

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 if the homes are built.

The developers built a ditch following guidelines set by federal and state agencies. They also passed tests to show it would not fail assuming there was a 100-year or 500-year flood.

"We went beyond the call of duty to design this ditch. How can it cause a liability?" Munro asked the commissioners.