An initiative that could spell trouble for a controversial water bottling plant in the Flathead Valley was approved by Flathead county voters last night.
Backers of the Egan Slough zoning expansion say the extending the agricultural zone will protect the area’s prime farmland from industrial development, including Montana Artesian Water Company.
The zoning change passed with 69 percent of the vote.
"It's just awesome that on election day people can come together from both sides of the aisle and share a common goal to protect the community," said Steve Harvey, with Yes! For Flathead Farms and Water, which backed the ballot initiative.
Flathead County Commissioners denied the same zoning expansion in 2016, calling it an attempt to reverse-spot zone. A district court judge ordered commissioners to revisit that decision earlier this year. Commissioners recently re-listened through public comment but haven’t set a date yet for their new decision.
Opponents are also appealing a water right permit granted this January by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. They say the Department failed to follow proper procedures when it granted Montana Artesian Water’s water right. A ruling is expected in October.
Montana Artesian Water owner Lew Weaver has said he opposes the expansion. He petitioned for some of his property to be included in the zone when it was created in 2002.