Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Hearing date set for Glacier National Park inholder case

Hungry Horse News | May 24, 2023 9:55 AM

The Flathead Conservation District Board on Monday set Aug. 25 as the hearing date for a home that it believes was illegally built on the shores of McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park.

The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. in front of hearing officer Laurie Zeller. A venue has not been set.

The evidence in the case will be available for public review by June 6, with comments due by June 20 and rebuttals due by July 16.

Last fall John and Stacy Ambler of San Diego, California, built a home on a roughly 2,300 square-foot lot on private land they owned in Glacier National Park’s Apgar Village. The home, with two decks, has a large cement retaining wall poured into the streambed.

It overlooks the otherwise pristine McDonald Creek and is largely surrounded by federal land.

The Conservation Board in earlier proceedings this year found the home violated the Montana Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act, also known as the 310 law.

In order to build the house, the Amblers would have needed what’s known as a 310 permit from the district.

They never applied, or received, the permit. The district then ordered the Amblers to take the house down by November. In addition, they were required to obtain a 310 permit for removal, since it would disturb the stream bank.

Trent Baker, the Amblers’ attorney, then asked for a declaratory ruling in the matter — the first step in legal appeals of the case.

He also posited that the state doesn’t have jurisdiction in the matter. He argues that the state ceded exclusive jurisdiction over all land within Glacier National Park to the United States.

The district disagrees. Still, its attorney, Camisha Sawtelle, said Monday night that the district is awaiting the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office to give an opinion on the matter.

Glacier National Park Superintendent David Roemer previously told the Hungry Horse News that the park’s jurisdiction is at the high water mark. The park did, however, allow the home to be hooked up to Park Service sewer and water, which serves Apgar Village.

The village is a mix of public and privately held properties at the foot of Lake McDonald. The private land is from a subdivision that pre-dates the creation of the Park in 1910.

The declaratory hearing, the board concurred Monday night, will not determine jurisdiction in its proceedings. It will simply determine if the home is in violation of the law.

If the Amblers don’t agree with the ruling, they can appeal in district court and then the Montana Supreme Court.

The home is largely framed in, but has no siding. The district previously ordered the Amblers to stop any construction on the house, and they have done so.