Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Beth Hutchinson
Seeley Lake, Mont. 

ALERT SEWER Sub-District #4 and Probably a Few Other Sub-Districts


August 31, 2017

Were you aware that, under sewer general manager Greg Robinson’s desire to determine equitable sewer debt and Operation and Maintenance costs, 40+/- historically residential properties in Sub-District or Phase 4 have become “businesses”? Such a business designation burdens us with the privilege to pay double for sewer charges — even though our parcels have never functioned as business properties and are hardly likely to become businesses after 50+/- years of us enjoying our homes. As non-business “businesses”, we cannot deduct such charges from our tax returns. Like your new identity and benefits?

Language matters when someone is trying to sell something. When Robertson speaks of “businesses,” I suspect, like most people, you think of actual operating businesses that already exist in Seeley Lake—the kinds of operations that provide our goods and services.

Apparently, Robertson sees “businesses” in a less than customary manner. He means any parcel that has the term “commercial” attached to it in the Seeley Lake Regional Plan (SLRP). By that unconventional interpretation, Robertson thought he “fairly easily grouped” (2016 memo) sewer district parcels into two differentiated payment groups so that the residential properties would be able to pay significantly less — an enticement. (Remember, a vote was coming up, and the cost of the sewer was a dominant issue to a vast number of residents),

What makes things easy for one, harms others. Robertson’s estimate of “business” properties in SD#4 harms 85 percent of its residential property owners. There are alternative, equitable, manageable alternatives.

A critical thing to note is that the Seeley Lake Regional Plan clearly says the document is NON-REGULATORY! Non-regulatory means that the proposals included in it are simply SUGGESTIONS—not the basis for decisions that distort reality.

The state and county in the property tax records officially recognize our 85 percent of the parcels in SD#4 as being residential, not the reverse. SD#4 has between five and seven parcels with operating businesses, depending on how one categorizes house/apartment rentals. It also has one church— labeled “general commercial” in the SLRP, which further undermines the logic of Robertson’s position.

Ask yourself why you should pay the same, single rate for possible sewer charges as a motel, a restaurant, a major service center or the like when REALITY proves you are a “resident”—and actually have no guarantee of receiving services.

A last, unanswered question— if no substantial grants would be available for SDs 2, 3 or 4 to put in their collection systems, would the construction be forced on us and would we have to pay the costs on our own???

Property owners in SD#’s 2 and 3, my apologies. I still need to locate more detailed maps to evaluate whether you, too, have residential parcels that will be forced, under Robertson’s definition, to pay “business” rates.


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