Hearing set in lawsuit against Cascade County over ZBOA appointments

A hearing has been scheduled for Friday morning in the lawsuit filed against Cascade County over appointments to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Judge Olivia Rieger, a district judge for the 7th Judicial District, issued an order last week to schedule the hearing for oral arguments on the motion to dismiss, which was filed by the attorney for the county on April 30.

[READ: Rieger’s order setting a hearing]

The case was initially filed in March by Ryan Villines, an applicant for the remaining ZBOA vacancy.

He was attempting to get an injunction to stop the County Commission from making an appointment in March, using criteria drafted by Carey Ann Haight, chief of the civil division in the County Attorney’s office, that limited applicants to residents outside the city limits, who hadn’t made public comments about the proposed Madison Food Park, and who lived outside a seven mile radius from the proposed MFP.

Motion to dismiss filed in Villines’ case against Cascade County over ZBOA vacancy

“The criteria Villines specifically challenged in his lawsuit has been set aside, and his application, if he makes one, will not be rejected on the basis of that old criteria,” Mark Higgins, attorney for the county, wrote. “The issue has ceased to exist and no longer presents an actual controversy,” and suggested the case be dismissed as moot.

The commission never voted to adopt the criteria and later voted to readvertise the vacancy without any criteria.

County received 10 applications for one ZBOA seat; commission postpones appointment to June 12

Applications for the remaining vacancy are due June 4 and the commission is scheduled to make an appointment during their June 12 meeting.

Villines has reapplied for the ZBOA vacancy and in the document included a quote from the movie Taken, in which the main character played by Liam Neeson is threatening the men who kidnapped his daughter.

Villines is also an active duty member of the 819th RED HORSE Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

According to county records, Villines is not a registered voter in Cascade County.

Hearing canceled in lawsuit against Cascade County over zoning board appointments

In his response to the county’s motion to dismiss, Villines wrote that he opposes the motion to dismiss and argues that the issue is not moot because the county could resume what he deems as wrongful conduct.

Villines writes that the county disqualified people from consideration for the ZBOA seat by “the unfair criteria.”

Glendive judge to hear case against Cascade County over zoning board appointment

“Countless other citizens have expressed that they did not submit applications for the board opening, even though they desired to, for fear of prosecution by this rogue administration,” Villines wrote. “Put plain and simply, civil rights infringements like these should never have been allowed to occur, and they should not ever occur again in the future.”

Lawsuit filed over ZBOA criteria, appointments

In his response, Villines corrects the judge’s reference to a section of state law referring to a county zoning commission since the board in question is the board of adjustment, which is in a different code section.

Both code sections give the county the power to appoint members to both boards. The law says the county “may appoint a zoning commission” whereas the section on the board of adjustment states that the county “shall provide for the appointment of a board of adjustment.”

State law also states vacancies on the ZBOA “must be filled.”