By LYNNETTE HINTZE
The Daily Inter Lake
Public service has been a hallmark of Gary Krueger’s life, so running for a seat on the Flathead County commission is a natural progression of that service, he said.
Krueger, a West Valley native, is running as a Republican against Democrat Clara Mears-Chappelle in the Nov. 6 election (early voting begins Oct. 9). District 3 covers the southwestern portion of Flathead County. All county voters will vote in the District 3 race.
Krueger said he believes the county’s permitting process needs to be loosened up and accelerated to give prospective small business owners more flexibility. He sees the need for a county conditional-use permit for home-based businesses in rural areas. That would help people start businesses in their garages.
Without a conditional-use permit option, a new business owner “either doesn’t start or he violates the zoning,” Krueger said.
Under current county law, a small business is not permitted in the 80-acre agriculture zone, he noted, and an existing business in unzoned areas could be forced to close if the land later becomes zoned and the business doesn’t comply with the “extent of use” provision.
And if neighbors subsequently complain about too much traffic or other intrusive activity from an unpermitted business, the county then must address enforcement after the fact, a kind of “reactionary” zoning, he said.
Half the county isn’t zoned, yet zoning is paid for by the whole taxpayer base, Krueger said.
“Zoning always devalues property,” he added, saying it flies in the face of the original freedoms the country’s forefathers intended. “In today’s world we take zoning, and we said you could have these freedoms, but, no, you can’t do that right here.”
Krueger said he feels the county has been sued in too many cases, oftentimes because of contradictory language in zoning regulations or the growth policy. By cleaning up some of the incongruities and relying on sound legal advice the county could avoid expensive lawsuits, he said.
Regarding the 911 center, Krueger wonders if there are “too many chiefs and too many different boards in deciding what happens.”
The center operates through an interlocal agreement between the county and three incorporated cities in Flathead County, and Krueger said the cities need to be part of the management.
“I believe that’s what they’re trying to do,” he said, suggesting the county needs to fine-tune the management of the center through sit-down meetings with all involved parties.
On a separate issue, Krueger said the county will have to manage its own waste and landfill, since shipping refuse out of the area is not a viable option.
“A lot is said about it [the landfill] devaluing property,” he said. “Everyone can scream something or other will devalue their property. But the landfill can be a good neighbor by saying we’ll do everything we can to purchase your property at a fair price.”
Krueger said he believes every person has the right of representation, which is the heart of the debate and litigation surrounding planning jurisdiction in Whitefish’s two-mile “doughnut” surround the city.
The county should represent doughnut residents unless the area is annexed by Whitefish, he said. But, by the same token, “the county should not lock the city of Whitefish inside its boundaries.
“If the city has a legitimate plan to expand services, the county needs to work with Whitefish,” Krueger commented.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at email@example.com.