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Construction variance approved for Gibson Flats fire victims

Gibson Flats fire (December 1, 2021)
Gibson Flats wildfire
Posted at 6:44 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 14:48:51-04

GREAT FALLS — Community members from Gibson Flats gathered Thursday afternoon at the Cascade County Commission office to attend a meeting regarding homes destroyed by fires in December 2021.

Zoning laws are ever-changing, meaning permits are constantly adapting with the regulations.

In this case, however, permits in Gibson Flats have not changed and building a house there now should be no different than building a house five years ago. Yet several residents are upset that there are roadblocks interfering with their ability to rebuild their homes.

According to the county commissioners, newly-built homes in the Gibson Flats floodplain now would require a special variance. The BFE - base flood elevation - is defined as the elevation above sea level any flooding may occur. This new variance states that the ground level of any new home constructed in Gibson Flats must be two-feet above the base flood elevation line.

This new information began the lengthy litigation process which finally adjourned on the afternoon of August 4th.

All three county commissioners voted to approve the variance, opening up construction opportunities for residents who lost their homes when none existed before.

Greg Mackenstadt is one such resident who has been tirelessly communicating with the county, and the decision brings him great relief.

He said, “Well, it went well I guess, we got our variance and I get to start building in 30 days hopefully, so here we go, hang on!”

The decision comes just in time before winter begins to affect outdoor activity.

The future for re-development in Gibson Flats can now proceed.