Why would Realtors oppose restrictions on bottling plant?

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When I read the letter submitted by a representative of the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors urging voters to vote AGAINST the Creston farmers’ legal request to expand their AG zone, I was curious. I made an appointment to meet with the author, and we discussed it.

How and why would she be speaking for nearly 900 Realtors in all of Northwest Montana? Why were Realtors taking this stance? The Realtors I know personally do NOT agree with NMAR’s position. They are FOR Initiative 17-01, as it helps these Creston farmers legally zone themselves to keep their community agricultural, and free from industrial factories like the proposed water-bottling plant. After all, property values within miles of a factory of this magnitude would plummet. Well depths will drop. Truck traffic will increase exponentially! Wouldn’t Realtors then be obligated to DISCLOSE this info to any potential buyer or seller? I would certainly want to know if I were a buyer. She said buyers should check the hydrology reports of the area before a purchase! WHO DOES THAT?

In my opinion, the letter contained untrue, unfounded and ridiculous implications.

1) She asks if voters should make a decision affecting fellow Montanans 50 miles away? Most certainly! When Whitefish has an issue, we all respond. When Columbia Falls has issues, we all respond. If something is forced onto a countywide ballot by the county commissioners, then the entire valley is asked to respond.

2) She insinuates the voters in this county would cast a vote on something they know nothing about. I find it rather insulting to think voters are not educated on matters. I have found voters here to be SUPER INFORMED before voting on anything! As a petitioner, I informed every one of my signers what the issue was — a local, legal, zoning matter which had been thrust upon citizens by the commissioners who failed at their job.

3) She refers to the issue of self-zoning as a “burden” to these farmers. The opposite is true, they are BEGGING for your help. They are fully aware of their requests and obligations and, as stewards of the precious Creston area soil, wildlife and natural beauty as the Gateway to Glacier Park, they are happy to protect the farming and the agricultural aspect of their community.

4) She asserts these people should use “regular processes for creating zoning districts.” They did, and were summarily dismissed by the county commissioners. The three commissioners are the ONLY reason this initiative is on the June 5 ballot.

When she told me she was NOT a Realtor, but an official on the Government Affairs Committee of NMAR, and she said they work very closely with the county commissioners, things came into focus. My takeaway was that the commissioners prodded NMAR to take this position and write the letter. She told me they didn’t believe this initiative was a matter for the entire county to weigh in on. But it was the commissioners who insisted this go to a countywide vote! Now they seem to be using NMAR as a mouthpiece to get voters to vote against the Initiative to vindicate themselves?!

I found the author of the NMAR letter to the editor to be in quite a difficult position. I believe she has taken a lot of grief for that letter, and I suppose, she was “just doing her job.” If the county commissioners had done theirs ....

And it is no coincidence that the commissioners are not revisiting this issue any time before this vote. They are hoping voters are “uninformed” enough to do their job for them.

Please vote “FOR” the Egan Slough initiative if you are comfortable and informed. Please leave it blank if you are not sure what “for” or “against” means. And remember, this initiative will not cost voters a single penny! The farmers have done all the work. But, the expense of allowing this industry into the valley will be insurmountable!

Rachubka is a Kalispell area resident.

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