A furious debate over a proposed subdivision northeast of Stevensville.
The Ravalli County planning board heard round three of the proposed Legacy Ranch subdivision and heard nothing but rejection from a packed crowd.
More than 100 people have now testified publicly or in written form against the planned unit development proposal.
No one has yet spoken in favor of the subdivision to be phased in over 39 years, and would, in the end, create another town in the Bitterroot. But supporters said it's smart planning for future growth.
The planning board heard testimony in a hot, packed room filled with people who don't want the 509 single family houses, or the 115 residential units in three condo lots on 368 acres.
The land is now farmed and ranched. But if approved it could, through the years, see its own store, and maybe even a charter school, complete with hiking trails and a park.
"You're a lot braver than I am," testified area resident Mike Foster to the board, "when you want to put your name on the dotted line and say 'yeah go ahead.' You're all some crazy people."
Residents worry about the depletion of rich agricultural soil, wildlife, and the natural environment. They said Legacy could pump their wells dry.
Across the road is the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.
"The refuge continues to have grave concerns with the proposals potential effect to refuge water," said Lee Metcalf Refuge project manager Tom Reed. "Both in quality and quantity."
Project engineer Jason Rice said measures can be taken to protect the refuge. "We don't agree to the kind of plans we've agreed to do unless our experts say its likely to turn out favorable for us."
But few at the meeting seem convinced. They worry about pressure on schools and on the highly traveled East Side Highway. They see accidents happening.
Rice, however, said reams of research, plus scientific and traffic experts reviewed the plan and conclude Legacy can work.
He said highly concentrated developments can reduce urban sprawl.
"All the technical resources that we have used and employed and hired to weigh and measure the ground all come out positive," said the engineer.
The planning board did not make its recommendation yet. The board only has the power of recommendation. Commissioners will have the final say.
"There are probably 2,000 pages of information to be read," said board chairman Jan Wisniewski.
The board will deliberate on April 17 at 2 p.m. in the county commissioners meeting room.