In an ongoing extraterritorial dispute between the City of Whitefish and Flathead County regarding land-use regulation in a 2-mile-wide area surrounding Whitefish city limits, the district court invalidated a 2011 City referendum that repealed a city-county resolution on the subject. The City appealed, arguing that the post-election challenge to the referendum was filed too late, that the district court erred when it determined that the resolution was an administrative act that was not repealable through the referendum process, and the effect of the repeal of the referendum should be to return the city and county to a 2005 agreement under which the city had zoning and planning jurisdiction for the area.
In a case of first impression, the Montana Supreme court said it would review the matter for correctness trial court’s conclusions of law regarding the validity of referendum. The court held that the action was not untimely under state statute that provides a 14-day deadline to challenge a proposed action in a referendum and the filing of an action four days after the results of the referendum were certified did not warrant dismissal based upon laches. Lastly, the Court concluded that the Resolution was not subject to referendum by voters to rescind it.
Phillips v City of Whitefish, 330 P. 3d 442 (MT 7/15/2014)
The opinion can be accessed at: