Former Mayor Tony Brown serves Troy City Council with civil action, citizens demand a vote on ordinance

By Stacy Walenter

The Troy City Council met on Wednesday, April 18 in front of a packed house. As soon as the meeting opened, former Troy mayor Tony Brown served council members with a civil action he is filing against the city.
The civil action lists Anthony Brown as Applicant Pro Se vs. City of Troy, Respondent for an Emergency Petition for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction. A call to the Lincoln County Clerk of Court on Thursday morning verified that the action has been filed.
In the action, Brown requests that the court “restrain the City of Troy from taking any action in the matter of Exchanging, Donating, or Sale of any part of Second Street until this matter can be evaluated.”
The majority of citizens in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting were there to contest Ordinance 2018-751. The ordinance was drafted by Troy city attorney Clif Hayden, who was present to answer questions from the council and those in attendance.
Hayden explained that Troy is a chartered, self-determined city, a choice made by the electorate in 1987. By default, the city uses state codes, but it is free to adopt its own rules. The ordinance was presented as a possible alternative to the state code.
But, Hayden stressed, the ordinance is not set in stone. He congratulated audience members for their presence and for taking such an active role in their community.
“I’m stunned. I can’t believe people are here giving their opinion,” Hayden said. “You don’t see much of it anymore.”
Under the Montana Code Annotated, the sale of lands in the public trust must go to a vote. Land owned by the city can be sold as the city sees fit with no input from the public. Second Street is in the public trust.
The ordinance would have changed the current set up. It would allow the sale of all land by the city, but it would institute a long series of checks and balances, including notice through publication of intent and the opportunity for public input. However, the ordinance would have removed the requirement of the vote.
Brian Simmons worried that the ordinance would allow for abuse in later years and that the city could lose public property, such as Roosevelt Park, if future leaders thought they could earn a lot of money.
MIchael Lee asked the council if any streets were sacred. He also asked the city attorney if citizens brought an action against the city if the city could use money from Town Pump for legal fees. Hayden said that would not be allowed. Mayor Dallas Carr said he took offense to the accusation.
“I don’t like this ordinance,” said Tish Burrows, of Tish’s Cabin Rentals. “I think it should be rewritten and the people should have more power.”
Though most in attendance were against the ordinance and against the sale of Second Street, a few residents were willing to step forward and say that they are for the sale.
“I am in favor of this. I would like to see the Town Pump expand,” said Sylvia Maffitt. She said other people in the room were also for the sale but felt hesitant because “it feels pretty heavy in here.”
Dallas Carr and those for the sale of Second Street believe there is a silent majority of people in favor of the sale who are not attending meetings. Carr said many of these people are coming to his office. This majority was also expressed in the city’s Facebook poll.
Those who were against the sale of Second Street all agreed that the council should allow residents to vote. Many believed that a vote would save the council from future animosity because the matter would be decided by the town and not just the council and mayor.
Though the ordinance was on the agenda and a vote was expected, the council decided to table the vote. Council members said they had only received a copy of the ordinance on Monday.
Council members Shawna Kelsey, Chuck Ekstedt, and Crystal Denton all said that they wanted the language of the ordinance changed to reflect the current code that requires a vote for lands in the public trust.
Hayden said a vote could cost the city approximately $4,000.
John Clogston requested that the city highlight Hayden’s lawyer fees in next month’s budget report.
In addition to the ordinance issue, the city also approved previous minutes, budget reports, and issued three new business licenses. The Lake Creek Inn is under new ownership. Jeffrey Rebo, who will manage the inn, was present on behalf of new owner Robert Treacy. Rebo said that the rooms are being cleaned and updated, advertising is increasing, and rates are expected to be $79 a night for a single and $89 for a double.
Page Jones, independent esthetician, also received a new license. Jones will work at CD Bos Hair Design and will offer skincare, waxing, and eyelash extensions.
Kate Arpin was also approved for a business license for Kate Arpin Graphics, which offers graphic and web design. Arpin said that her clients are all over the state and are mostly natural resource organizations but she has worked locally for Trojan Lanes and the Yaak School.
Clerk Tracy Rebo and Mayor Dallas Carr said they would both be unavailable at the next scheduled work meeting. The council agreed to shift the dates of the next two meetings, putting the next work meeting on May 16 and the next regular council meeting on May 23.
At the work meeting, the council will discuss the new language of the ordinance. Hayden said that he will join the meeting via a web conference. He also said it is possible for up to 50 people to attend the meeting remotely through a web link or by calling in if they cannot make it to Troy.
After the meeting, councilwoman Kelsey expressed how proud she was of citizens for showing up in such large numbers to express their views.
“I’m really proud of everyone participating and I think we need to respect that,” Kelsey said. “Whatever side they’re on, I just think it’s great.”