Is Montana lost? No, it is not too late to work to save it!

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This letter is a follow-up to a guest opinion of mine that was published on Jan. 22 titled “The Changing Landscape.” Please understand that the only reason I share my thoughts on paper and submit them to be published is because I care. They come from seeing this place change from the inside and out. They come from my experience on the ground floor of growth in real estate. They come from attending many City Council meetings to see how the system operates. If my message bleeds through to frustration, I do apologize. I do not wish to offend anyone or cause division amongst us … there is enough of that ever so potent “division” that exists in our world with media, politics and religion. We are just people trying to survive this thing called Life. I only wish for things to be done better and for our community to be strengthened.

Something that really disappoints me about all this growth we have experienced is the lack of planning for all the essential services before a bunch more people will be using the infrastructure. Sometimes I want to ask the City Council or other politicians if they have ever played the game “Sim City”? Just as the name suggests, it is a computer simulation of building a city. You have to install electrical, sewer systems, roads, utilities, amenities and everything else a happy little town needs to grow into a metropolis. The game has an element of real growth and how it can strain infrastructure: Don’t have a well designed road system? Traffic will back up and become a big problem!

There needs to be so much more thought that goes into developing permanent buildings and supplying for more Montanans and it just is not happening. It seems like everything our state and local government does is a step backwards, or a side-step, or just a trip! They have a hard time making logical decisions for the citizenry that betters our lives and is a step in the right direction.

For instance, one of the best routes through Kalispell has always been the one-ways on Third and Fourth avenues on the east side in Kalispell. Just recently the city changed these streets into two-ways, confusing everyone and creating more clogs where there used to be fluidity. I don’t believe that will last long, as with vehicles parked on each side of the street it is too narrow to allow traffic two ways, it is a hazard and there will likely be wrecks. Didn’t anybody measure it or look at the street before you did this!

I really hate to be the voice of complaint, and I wouldn’t do it at all if things were done better.

Here’s a little advice for Kalispell and Flathead County:

Ease the growth. Make it easier for longtime Montana landowners to manage their land. Minor subdivisions, family transfers, logical zoning changes and so on. While at the same time, make it more expensive and control the timing for larger development corporations to come in here and take large sections of land and turn it into tract-housing. They will do it anyway and that means more money for you, or should I say us. Focus on “infill” development within the city limits, which will allow the city to gradually increase its footprint. Stop allowing satellite developments that turns this town into a SPRAWL. Give the police chief and the rest of local law enforcement the tools and funds they need to clean up some growing problems. Allow the Drug Task Force team to clean up this meth plague. Be more aggressive on aggressive driving seen by many tourists who insist on tail-gating, not braking properly for converging traffic, dangerous driving techniques … things of this nature. The City Council needs to understand that bike paths and pedestrian walkways are not near as important as a maintained and functional road system. Have some regulatory respect and awareness of historical landmarks. Please do not tear down the downtown grain towers; it would change our skyline forever. If you really want to build your little bike path through that area, build it alongside the towers and let’s make sure if the world ever falls apart we can figure out a way to stock those full of feed to eat.

There is more than enough money pouring in here from existing property taxes, fuel taxes, hospitality taxes, income taxes, and the other 150 taxes that exist to run this community properly and efficiently. To help out with the costs of catching up a neglected infrastructure, I would recommend making it more expensive for anybody to purchase property in Montana and to register a vehicle if this is not their permanent residence. I think that if Montana is not your “home,” you are not a registered resident, and you should have to pay hefty taxes to own a part-time piece of heaven here. I also think it is time for the tourists who come in droves by the millions to pay more for the wear and tear and damage that occurs because of their visit. Unequivocally and without a shadow of a doubt, there is enough money available to make this state the most well-kept and good-conditioned place on the planet. The money is there, but the sense and guidance of our politicians and government is not.

I fear for this valley’s soul. I foresee a land of millionaires so congested that everything that was great about this place has been replaced by modern mansions and newcomers in their brand-new SUVs. Everyone is welcome, but the attitudes and agendas that are pouring in here are changing this place.

There are more and more supremely wealthy people moving here, celebrities, industrial tycoons and guys who developed web pages that you just used. I would hope people with that kind of money who share a love and appreciation for this place would have a desire to make this valley the best place on Earth. To do that it requires sound decision-making, foresight and vision into the future while focusing on the task at hand of systematically addressing the current priorities.

It is not too late for Montana to come to its senses. Get some good leaders in there who understand this state, its people and the waves of the time. At this current rate of growth and change we have minutes to start steering this state down the right path and stop driving the herd here. If the politics and focuses of industry don’t change, the only thing that will feel like Montana is the postcards … living on the ground will be no different than any other place.

Hall is a resident of Kalispell.

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