Proposed regs for landowners near Stevensville Airport stir debate


STEVENSVILLE, Mont. - A proposed ordinance regulating heights of buildings and trees near the Stevensville Airport is stirring debate.

The airport is owned by the city of Stevensville.

In 1989, the town council passed an ordinance that regulates the heights of structures and trees in different zones adjoining the airport for safety. The town of Stevensville is updating that ordinance.

Mayor Gene Mim Mack said, under the new proposal, fewer than 50 property owners would need permits for structures or trees that exceed 30 feet in height.

"You may still be permitted to do it," said Mim Mack. "We just want to get with the FAA so they can determine whether it needs a light or any mitigation over interference with the approaches to or from the airport."

Property owners who would be affected live 3,000 feet from the end of each runway. Trees or buildings that already exceed 30 feet would be grandfathered in.

The ordinance people will hear about next week at a public hearing has been redrafted from a broader one that Mim Mack called "too restrictive." He said the first draft required permits from people who were in the entire airport affected area.

"We reviewed the old one," he said, "and we felt that we could improve it, and actually make it less restrictive than the one in '89."

County resident Norman Herriot said the city has no right to tell him what to do at all. He lives adjacent to the airport

"I'm not for the city telling me what I can and can't do," said Herriot. "The next thing they tell me I can't raise a chicken, or a pig or a cow. And I don't like that."

A lot of people in the Bitterroot don't like that.

But NBC Montana also talked to Buzz Hale at the airport. He was preparing for a flight into the back country. Hale supports the ordinance.

"To bring our airport into what is basically standard FAA regulations," said Hale.

The issue has spurred a great deal of interest and controversy in Stevensville.

Last week, a public hearing was rescheduled when too many people showed up to accommodate Town Hall space.

The hearing on the redrafted ordinance is set for June 25 at 6 p.m. at the Light of the Valley Church on North Kootenai Creek Road.