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Farm to Market subdivision draws opposition

| October 27, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Fifty-two people have signed a petition against a proposed 70-acre housing development on Farm to Market Road near Libby City-County Airport.

Their main concern is flooding from the McMillan watershed, said Andrew Foote, a neighbor and spokesman for the McMillan Neighborhood Conservation Alliance and Homeowners Association.

The petition turned into the Lincoln County Planning Department will be presented during a public hearing for the proposed subdivision 9 miles outside Libby. The hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, at the courthouse.

The county commissioners then will decide whether or not to grant developers George Wood, Mike Munro and Don Brown permission to divide the land into 16 lots ranging from 1.5 to 6.5 acres.

"We're not going to comment," Munro said Wednesday. "On everything, we will follow all the state regulations."

Wood did not return a phone call and Brown could not be reached.

A public hearing is required for subdivisions with six or more lots, said Mary Klinkam, director for the county planning department.

"The Lincoln County commissioners will hear public comments, and I'm sure there will be quite a bit," Klinkam said. "They won't make a decision that same day, but will follow up to approve with conditions or deny."

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.

"It changed the entire channel of McMillan Creek," Foote said. "The whole 1,000-acre flood plain was condensed into an 80-acre piece of property and there's no place for this creek to go."

"The developers logged it this past summer, which increases the hazard," he continued.

Attempts in the 1960s and 1970s to channel the creek to the southeast of the property to Farm to Market Road failed when the area filled with sediment. Rain and spring run-off has caused water to run over Farm to Market Road.

"In 1996, water took Farm to Market Road out, and in 1974, it took Libby Creek Bridge out," Foote said.

In 1997, flooding water came with 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.

Foote has spoken about his concerns to Montana departments of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources and Conservation, and Transportation; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Gov. Brian Schweitzer's office; and Lincoln County Conservation District.

"There's a lot of concern with the information we presented that wasn't presented to them before," Foote said. "We would like to see more input from what impact it will have on the entire area."