Ballot Measure to Give Developers Unlimited Control over Park County Could be on June 4, 2024 Primary Election Ballot

Our polling information shows voters want development controls

August 2023

As we alerted you in June, Anne Hallowell has filed two ballot measure initiative petitions designed to ensure unfettered developer control over all of rural Park County.  The first measure would repeal the 2016 Growth Policy and the second would require voter approval of any future Growth Policy.

The repeal of the County’s 2016 Growth Policy will give developers unlimited control over development in rural Park County for years.

                                                       Today.                                                             Tomorrow?

Under state law, if there is no Growth Policy then the County is prohibited from adopting an land regulation.  In other words, the initiative would give developers unlimited control over development in Park County.  We would turn into Gallatin County, sprawl would engulf Livingston which would become a suburb of Bozeman.

Instead of local control our communities, our natural resources, our quality of life would be determined by national development companies, real estate investment trusts and fast food and resort franchises.

While voter approval of a new Growth Policy sounds appealing, it also means delay because it would require putting a measure on the ballot and then a campaign – with more time for the developers to build whatever they want wherever they want and to influence the election.

If the justification for the measure is to give voters control, then they should have control not only over the Growth Policy but over development itself, especially in the absence of any Growth Policy and any land regulations. 

Repeal of the Growth Policy may prevent the taxpayers from benefitting from grants for transportation improvements and conservation.

Friends of Park County has heard that failure to have a Growth Policy may disqualify the County from applying for, or receiving, grant funding for some types of transportation improvements and the purchase of conservation easements.

In a future update we will have more information on this subject.

The County’s latest Growth Policy was adopted after extensive public consultation during 12 months in 2016.

The County spent a full year in 2016 advertising the Growth Policy update to the public, holding community listening sessions in Gardiner, Clyde Park, Wilsall, Cooke City and Livingston, conducting interviews with stakeholders, hosting an online survey and conducting four public hearings and public meetings before the Planning Board and County Commission.

You can read about the consultation process in Appendix B “Public Input” in the 2016 County Growth Policy.

It is ridiculous to claim, now, seven years later, that the public was not consulted.

Polling of Park County rural voters show they are concerned about development and support planning and regulation.

It is widely, but incorrectly assumed that only voters living in Livingston are concerned about the pace and form of development and that rural voters do not support land use planning and land regulation.

In fact, concern about development and support for regulation inside and outside of Livingston are very similar.  Here is one example from Friends’ 2022 poll of voters:

Support among Park County voters for limiting the construction of new residential subdivisions to existing communities by residency inside and outside Livingston.

You can learn more about Friends’ poll, and other polls showing bipartisan voter support for planning and land regulation in this video.

What Friends of Park County is doing about it, and what you can do.

Friends of Park County is sharing accurate information about the initiative with its supporters and the public during the signature gathering period.

Here is how you can help:

  • Don’t sign the petition.
  • Use personal contacts and social media to inform friends why they should not sign the petition.
  • Let us know if you know of anyone who signed the petition because they were misled about what it would do.

Some facts about the initiative petition process.

September 20, 2023, is the deadline to submit signatures of 1,047 registered rural voters.

Hallowell and her supporters have until September 20, 2023, to gather 1,047 valid signatures of registered voters living in rural Park County, that is, voters living outside Livingston and Clyde Park.

As of earlier this month, Hallowell and others had gathered about 560 signatures of which about 25% were found to be invalid.

Signature gatherers must affirm the signers knew the content of the measure before signing. Did they?

When submitting the petition to County elections, the persons who gathered the signatures must sign a statement affirming that they believe the signatures are of county voters “and that the signers knew the contents of the petition before signing the petition.”

But did they?

Friends’ supporters have heard stories that suggest that the actual effect of the measures has been misrepresented.  As of now, those stories are unconfirmed but if you know someone who signed one or both of the petitions based on a misrepresentation of their effect, please let us know.

Petition signers who decide they do not support the measures can withdraw their signature by completing and notarizing a form you can find online here.

If the County determines the petitions submitted by September 20 have the required number of signatures, then the measures would appear on the June 4, 2024 primary election ballot.

A majority of rural voters is required to pass the measures. Voters in Livingston and Clyde Park would not be allowed to vote on the measures on June 4, 2024.

Only registered voters living outside Livingston and Clyde Park would be allowed to vote on the measures.

There are almost 7,000 voters in rural Park County. Based on past voting patterns, about 4,000 of them will vote in the June 2024 election.   A simple majority, about 2,000 votes, is required for passage.