The controversial “glamping camp” proposed for an island in the Gallatin River near the Gallatin Gateway is still in court, albeit for a reason other than the floodplain issue that has attracted so much attention over the past three years.
Camp owner Jeff Pfeil is now appealing the negative legal decision all the way to the Montana Supreme Court. Both the Gallatin Conservation District and the 18th Bozeman District Court ruled that the work he was doing on the pond on his island was illegal.
He missed the April date for filing an appeal to the Supreme Court and was granted an extension of the filing until June 30, next Thursday.
Pfeil has deepened and enlarged an existing pond fed by a “competent stream”, in line with decisions by the Gallatin Conservation District (GCD) and the district court.
It is debatable here what the stream legally means. But the ditch. Specifically, what goes through Pfeil’s property?
The GCD has the authority to issue mandatory permits to modify a natural permanent flowing stream, its riverbeds or its direct banks. No permit is required to change the ditch.
The GCD said Pfeil had not obtained a permit and had a stream, not a ditch.
Not only did he fail to obtain a permit, but he lied that he had one, GCD director Becky Clements told Belgrade News. In October 2019, Pfeil was asked if he had a state permit 310, which the state requires for those who want to work on or near the creek, “and he told us he has a permit, but he doesn’t. This took months. He lied. We asked him to submit application 310 so we could look at his drawings and plans to see how to rectify the situation.
“Instead, he decided not to apply and challenged our jurisdiction (the district court). We never got permission,” Clements said.
Clements said Pfeil could still get permission after that. The penalty for non-compliance is up to $ 500 per day.
Clements said: “In the three years I’ve been here, this has never happened before. Usually people follow the rules and ask for permits. We like to focus on compliance before fines. “
On 18 February 2022, the 18th District Court of Justice ruled against Pfeil. In a district court order, Judge Rienne H. McElyea found that the information provided by the GCD was “more weighty … with historical footage, winding waterways, like a stream on the same island, and testimonies from community members about the long existence of a multi-year a stream that has been subjected to manipulation. “
McElyea also noted that GCD did not act “arbitrarily or capriciously” in the initial determination of jurisdiction and that although Pfeil provided evidence “supporting a different outcome … on the other hand, there was important evidence to support GCD’s decision.”
The Court confirmed that the waterway in question is a jurisdictional stream, not a ditch.
“We care about his pond,” Clements added. “It’s a pond on a canal, so it’s an unnamed tributary. This pond is inside this canal. As if someone had dug up an area inside this creek. He therefore had to obtain a permit (310).
Pfeil’s legal argument was that he had a ditch and did not need a permit. In his GCD documentation, he argued that “every person I shared this information with agreed that this was obviously an artificial ditch. Without any question in my head. “
He stated that he was “seriously trying to learn the rules and follow them!” He said he hired two engineers who told him it was an artificial ditch, not a stream. He was told he didn’t need permission 310. He also said neighbors complaining “they have an ax to grind me with me … no … they don’t like change.”
Pfeil’s claim was that a permit for the Gallatin County floodplain allowed him to dig a stream / ditch without the need for another permit. Buddy Drake, Contract Inspector for Fish, Wildlife & amp; Parks, he wrote, told Pfeil that FW&P “did not regulate Act 310.”
Another document included in the appeal to the district court showed that Zillow’s list of properties before Pfeil bought it states that it comes with a spring stream.
Clements said she could not speculate on community rumors that the pond was arranged as a “glampground” pond and that it was never intended to feed livestock.
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