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To say I was astounded to read the guest column (May 21) of Montana Sen. Rick Laible would be an understatement. Real leadership by our elected officials requires the truth, even when it may not be the most popular idea at a given point in time.

I will not defend the Draft B zoning plan as a perfect document n it is not. I believe the effort under way is an honest process that is respectful of all opinions. The effort by Ravalli County is not to deny property owner rights, growth development limitation or denial of a current business use; but it is a response to a citizen-initiated effort that passed with a majority vote resulting in the current one-dwelling-unit-per-2-acres interim zoning. Clearly, some Ravalli County residents recognized the dangers of unplanned development within the valley.

To imply that zoning would limit the ability of larger land owners to extract value from their land through development is simply not true. Most development occurring within the valley is residential new construction. Zoning allows it. Clustering does not doom a farmer to maintaining his acreage without the ability to develop it. If clustering is used it maintains open space and protects productive farm land (say 75 percent), while allowing development of the entitlement that may be built on a smaller percentage of the total parcel (say 25 percent). This makes for a win-win situation. The farmer extracts the same value they currently are entitled to, valuable productive farm land remains in production, and the public benefits from open spaces that would otherwise lost to building. Is it the highest and best use? You decide.

Laible raises the issue of fiscal impact to staff needs if zoning were adopted. There might be additional fiscal impacts for staffing needs, but they would pale by comparison to the fiscal responsibility all tax payers will face if unbridled development continues. Impact fees and additional property taxes will not pay for the additional police, fire, water, sewer and roadways needed to service new development. Every single taxpayer will.

I do not believe the building industry will be adversely affected. People are still moving here in ever-increasing numbers, creating a huge demand. That demand will still be there if zoning is adopted. It may actually improve the long-term demand, because the valley will remain more attractive when well-planned development occurs. Maybe the values we all enjoy like open spaces, scenic vistas and a clean, healthy environment will be saved for generations to come, because someone exercised the foresight to save it at this point in our history.

I respect Laible in his statements, but they clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding and foresight.

Clayton D. Floyd Jr. is a member of the Stevensville Community Planning Committee.

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