One day this last September, Katie and I, and Katie’s daughter and her best beau, spent the day in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. We saw lots of wildlife, including a couple of grizzlies…….a long way off :-). The best photos I got were of elk–particularly two that I thought were going to stick their heads in the car window and bite my camera. Their facial expressions inspired this slide show.
The amazing sunrises this time of year are almost a routine event. This one was a doubleheader. These are from the same day, a few minutes apart.
Last night the Planning Commission voted 6-1 in our favor to keep commercial development out of this valley. Unfortunately, that doesn’t kill the rezone. There is still a majority on the City Council that will approve it anyway. But, it does give us more ammunition when it goes back to the Growth Management Hearings board.
And the moon was along for the ride. As an update to my last post :
The City has given us more time (until this Friday, noon) to comment on the new Environmental Impact Statement for the commercial rezone in this valley. On the one hand, this is good, because I have plenty more to say. On the other hand, I’m pretty tired of saying it.
It’s back!!!! No, not the Super Blood Moon Eclipse, the rezone I have been fighting for 5 years!
Yes, The City has published the new “Supplemental” Environmental Impact Statement and the findings are as fake as this photo, but not nearly as well faked, if I do say so myself. This was the photo I had hoped to get, but the haze and the full eclipse made the moon nearly invisible at that point in the sky.
Church buys oxbow/slough and 43 acres of wetlands in1999. They see the property as perfect for a 500 member church. Over time, the church realizes they are in way over their heads—the project would be far too expensive, besides they only have 40 members. They latch onto the idea they can make a pile of money on the property by getting it rezoned from Limited Open Space to General Commercial and selling it to a big box retailer. For many years they try getting the idea past the Planning Commission without success. This failure is partly because the City’s Comprehensive Plan has the property zoned Limited Open Space for the specific purpose of preventing commercial sprawl into this valley, partly because the property is a mile away from the city’s other commercial districts (already struggling to fill vacant space), and largely because, environmentally, the idea is insane.
By 2010, the Pastor of this church is feeling very frustrated. The pastor’s son, a skilled political consultant, finesses the take over of the City Council and the mayor’s office. The new team ignores the planning commission and pushes forward with the rezone and its enabling comprehensive plan amendment. To proceed, they first need an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The City staff is put to the task. It becomes clear that any City staff members who voice concerns about the rezone will not have their jobs long.
A few of my neighbors and I appeal the resulting EIS. The Hearings Examiner agrees with us and invalidates the Comp Plan and rezone. A month later, the mayor fires the Hearings Examiner. This was 2012.
In 2013, An international engineering firm with a “team of experts” takes the job of producing a “real” EIS. They accept a lien on the property as guarantee of payment for their services. The new EIS is over 200 pages—very long on detail, and very short on reality. Pretty much everything in it is outrageously inaccurate, but the most outrageous claim they make is that removing the blackberries on the property will provide 30,000 cubic yards of compensatory flood storage (No, I’m not kidding). They continually insist that their LIDAR-generated TOPO map is far more accurate than the conventional survey map. This is because the LIDAR is interpreting the 8′ high blackberry bushes along the slough as solid ground that can be excavated for flood storage.
We appeal, but the new Hearings Examiner sides with the City. A special session of the City Council is called on December 26, 2013 to approve the rezone so that the mayor can sign it into law before his four years in office are over.
We appeal to the State Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB). In September of 2014, the GMHB invalidates the comp plan amendment/rezone and sends it back to the City for a re-think. By this time, the City has spent over $250,000 in taxpayer funds on a private party’s rezone attempt.
When it comes time to decide whether to drop the whole thing or try to address the concerns of the GMHB with a new version of the EIS, one council member is absent. The vote is a tie. In this situation, the new mayor who opposes the rezone is allowed a vote. He breaks the tie. The rezone is finally dead……..we thought. After we all leave the council chamber in celebration, one council member invokes Robert’s Rules of Order and announces his intention to bring the decision back at the next council meeting when his compadre would be present. Of course, the vote goes the other way at that following meeting.
So, here we are. On August 28, 2015, the new 200 page “Supplemental” EIS is published and we are given 30 days to respond. The blackberry bushes are no longer playing a role, but the claims in this new EIS are just as staggeringly bizarre. I turned in my 18 page response. The battle goes on.
You can’t always get what you want, but……this is the photo I did get that night—in between writing like mad to meet the next day’s deadline.