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Property rights in Lincoln County hanging by a thread

| August 25, 2023 7:00 AM

Citizens of Lincoln County,

The purpose of this article is to send a warning to all landowners, and future landowners, in Lincoln County who care about property rights.

My family has owned property and businesses in Lincoln County for almost 20 years. We purchased 160 acres in the lower Yaak about 3 ½ years ago to divide for future family settlement, investment purposes and for potential future business ventures.

This piece of property has over 4,000 feet of Pine Creek frontage and was homesteaded over 100 years ago. After the original homesteaders left it has been vacant for the last 60-80 years. When we first walked the property, we had learned that one of the neighbors had illegally built his shop on part of the property that we purchased and has taken the liberty over the years of painting ¾ of a mile of our trees on both sides of the Yaak River Road orange to keep hunters out and has taken it upon himself to install wire gates on our property to keep people off it.

Another neighbor took a piece of our property and parked mobile homes, built sheds, installed a water system and put up “No Trespassing” signs all around this little development that was also on the property we purchased.

They have landscaped around parts of the Pine Creek banks on this property which they have used as their swimming holes and have felt free to use this land, prior to our purchase, as they saw fit. Because the mobile homes had been removed and payment was made for the land that our neighbor carelessly built his shop on, we didn’t feel that these neighbors in question were going to be an issue for us moving forward.

Several months ago, one of our neighbors who has been angry over our purchase and use of this property (The same neighbor who illegally built his shop on the property) got together with some of the neighbors who do not know us and somehow convinced some of them to sign off on this zoning proposal. This proposal seeks to directly limit my family, and anyone else in this zoning district, from using any firearms, including firearm hunting within 1,500 feet of the zoning district boundaries on forest service land (It appears that this neighbor does not like hunters).

It also seeks to control whether people can operate a commercial business on their property, even though the neighbor who is spearheading this zoning effort operates a road construction company out of his property, which creates noise and dust through the use of the heavy equipment going to and from his property at all hours of the day. The proposal seeks to limit the number of buildings I can put on our land; it seeks to limit the number of animals we can have on our property; and it seeks to keep me from dividing our land into anything smaller than a 20-acre parcel, even though many of the pieces of land in this proposed district are smaller than the 20-acre proposed minimum.

The best part (I’m being sarcastic) of this proposed zoning is that all existing neighbors who are part of this zoning effort are exempt from following most of the rules. This seems like it is not a community zoning at all, but rather an underhanded way for a few neighbors to control what I do on my property because, per the proposal, only my property will not be grandfathered in to not having to follow most of the rules.

As mentioned previously, the purpose of this article is to send a warning to every landowner, and future landowner, in Lincoln County who cares about property rights. If we allow this type of crazy, “HOA-style” control (which is primarily found in places where no one in Lincoln County wants to live) to creep into Lincoln County, it will spread, and your neighborhood could be next.

If the commissioners allow this type of targeting to go through, which I do not think they will, it will open the door for every woke-minded, overly-anxious, nosey, and controlling neighbor who has a bone to pick to convince 60% of the neighbors to “zone out” the nail salon, logging operation, construction company, animal farmers, horse enthusiasts, property developers, or any other operation that doesn’t fit with a certain neighbor’s preference.

This type of property control is exactly what we all want to keep out of this county. If this door is allowed to be opened by the commissioners it could set a precedent for this to happen over and over again.

The commissioner meeting to hear this matter is scheduled for August 30 at the Libby Courthouse at 1:30 p.m. If you would like to voice your displeasure to the commissioners regarding zoning Lincoln County, feel free to show up and let your voice be heard that Lincoln County does not want their land to be zoned.

If you are not able to show up you may write to the commissioners directly via email.

Josh Letcher- jletcher@libby.org

Jim Hammonds - jhammonds@libby.org

Brent Teske - bteske@libby.org

Sincerely,

Owen Baisden, Yaak