Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Flower Creek, Old Snowshoe development plan tabled

Daily Inter Lake | January 13, 2023 12:00 AM

Libby City Council was set to approve the Libby Outdoor Recreation Association's plan for the South Flower Creek and Old Snowshoe Recreation Development at the Jan. 3 city council meeting, but public comment caused the council to conclude that the plan “needs a little bit more work,” according to mayor Peggy Williams.

“Our purpose is to create, enhance and maintain sustainable recreation opportunities for the greater Libby area,” Tony Petrusha, a spokesperson for the recreation association, told the city council at a meeting in November.

LORA wants to help outdoor recreationists gain direction, maintain stewardship and prioritize projects, Petrusha said in the November meeting. It would also like to guide future local, state and federal planning efforts for land use to economic development in the Libby area he said in late 2022.

In his introduction of the plan at the Jan. 3 meeting, Petrusha said that it has been adopted by multiple agencies.

“It's been adopted by the Lincoln County Commission,” Petrusha said. “All of the appropriate analyses from the responsible agencies are in place or in action.”

Another member of the public, Michelle Lamey noted that the plan may interfere with wildlife. She said that there were multiple people she knew offhand that had encountered wildlife in the area that may be affected.

“I know some of you guys that were born and raised here know the elk used to cross in there,” Lamey said. “My concern is for the wildlife habitat here. It has been pushed, it’s still being pushed and if this goes through it will push them out completely.”

One member of the public, Jennifer Nelson said the project could potentially affect the city’s water supply.

“There has been nothing in the plan that discusses how they will mitigate impacts to the developments they propose,” Nelson said.

The plan does not address the fact that the designated recreation hub is near the water supply, Nelson said.

“In fact an Environmental Assessment that was required from one of the proposals by the ski club, submitted for grant funding, didn't even mention the municipal water supply, though it was only a few hundred feet away,” Nelson said of the Montana Environmental Policy Act process. “This was a fact that shocked the Fish Wildlife and Parks director when I called him and discussed it with him.”

To finish up her time offering public comment, Nelson asked that the council seek alternatives to the plan’s hub.

“I think our resolution spells out our support of (the plan.) Just like we did with the growth policy we could require some language about the proximity to the water supply,” Councilor Kristen Smith said.

Williams then asked what she would like spelled out. Smith deferred to Nelson’s suggestion, but was not sure what should be included.

“What I’m hearing is that this needs a little bit more work, and you would like to postpone it?” Williams asked the council as a whole.

They agreed that the plan would need to be brought up again at a further meeting. Petrusha said that he would like to work with others to revise the plan, and Williams told him that either her, or the city planner would be best to work with. Those with a specific comment should email them to Sam Sikes the mayor said.

“I appreciate the public comments, and that’s good. What I want to do is incorporate them so that we don’t end up with this three month back-and-forth-back-and-forth,” Petrusha said.