STEVENSVILLE, Mont. - The Legacy Ranch subdivision has been in the works for years.
It idled during the recession , but now has new life.
The proposed subdivision is north east of Stevensville, off East Side Highway, across the road from the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.
A planning board hearing Wednesday evening drew a crowd of 60 to 80 people.
Several people spoke against the plan.
Nobody spoke in favor.
The sweeping landscape is now a farm.
Legacy Ranch would be phased in over the next 39 years.
Developers said it would be built as demand grew.
The land could one day be home to 1,400 to 1,600 residents.
Critics said the East Side Highway can't handle the traffic.
They worry about schools ballooning with kids.
Many are concerned about senior water rights and impacts to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.
Lone Rock resident Jim Rokosch said we need to conserve our water rights.
"This proposal," said Rokosch is " Willy Wonka's golden ticket to steal water rights from senior water rights holders."
"We need to conserve and honor our duty to steward this living landscape," said Rokosch," and the water is the lifeblood not only to ourselves but to future generations."
But developers think they have a well planned project.
"Twenty-three acres of the projects have been removed that were adjacent to the refuge" said project engineer Jason Rice. " the remaining acreage is separated by a highway and setbacks. The closest you'll see a home,
" said Rice, "is 700 feet from the refuge."
Rice said the developer has and is working with Lee Metcalf to ease concerns.
He said the proposed cluster development would ease pressure on other farmland, and he said the developer would generously support the schools as the population grew.
But critics are vocal about the loss of the rural lives they lead if Legacy is approved.
The planning staff has recommended conditional approval .
Critics said that was done without public input.
The planning board hearing has been continued until Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Lone Rock School gym.