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A Bozeman developer has appealed a Gallatin County Conservation District decision regarding the classification of a waterway on the Gallatin Gateway property he hopes to turn into a glampground.

Pfeil Acquisitions LLC, which is registered to the developer Jeff Pfeil, has asked Gallatin County District Court to review the conservation district’s determination that the waterway and associated pond on his property are natural. The ruling means Pfeil must have a permit from the district before altering them.

Pfeil Acquisitions has said the stream is not natural but a manmade ditch, which would mean that a permit is not required as long as work on the waterway and associated pond doesn’t alter the banks of the nearby Gallatin River, according to court documents.

Pfeil didn’t return a call seeking comment before deadline.

Becky Clements, conservation district administrator, said she couldn’t discuss Pfeil Acquisitions’ request because she had not received official notice it had been filed in district court.

The conflict between Pfeil and the conservation district is part of a broader controversy surrounding his development, Riverbend Glamping Resort.

Local landowners and national conservation groups have formed Protect the Gallatin River, a new nonprofit, that organized a petition against the resort. Some of the groups also unsuccessfully requested the planning department review the project as a subdivision.

The conservation district has been involved with Pfeil’s property, which sits on an island west of the Mill Street bridge, since October 2019, when adjacent landowners complained about activity on the property, according to documents from the district website. They said Pfeil dug a large pond on a spring creek that ran through his property without the required 310 permit from the conservation district.

The district investigated the complaint and the district board of supervisors determined in December 2019 that the work on Pfeil’s property required a 310 permit, which he did not have.

“The Supervisors advise that you cease and desist any further work until you contact our office to obtain proper permitting,” Clements wrote in a letter to Pfeil. “Please also be advised the Supervisors have requested a complete review of all work completed thus far and that our inspection team be involved in any potential remediation plans.”

In response, Pfeil emailed Clements in January 2020.

“Every single person that I have shared this information with and showed the property to has agreed that this is clearly a man made ditch. Without any question in their minds,” Pfeil wrote. “I was and am still under the impression that a 310 permit was not needed on man made ditches like mine. I tried in earnest to learn the rules and follow them! I believe that I did that successfully.”

The board of supervisors decided at a meeting in late January to accept a 310 permit application from Pfeil even though work was underway, so they could assess what, if any, action they needed to take.

Pfeil never applied for a 310 permit.

Instead, in May 2020, Pfeil requested the conservation district determine that the waterway and pond were not part of a natural, perennial-flowing stream and, therefore, not in the district’s jurisdiction, according to documents on the conservation district website. The ruling also would have meant a 310 permit was not required for the work on Pfeil’s property.

The district held a hearing on Pfeil’s request in October.

Two months later, board chair Bob Logar signed the district’s decision stating the stream and pond were in the district’s purview.

Pfeil had 30 days to appeal to district court, which he has now done.

The Riverbend Glamping Resort is now going through floodplain review separate from any proposed or ongoing work on the waterway or pond.

If the county approves the floodplain permit, Pfeil can build the resort.

It will include campsites with Airstream trailers, Conestoga wagons and tiny homes for rent. Guests will have access to running water from a well on the property, electricity from the lines along Gateway South Road and wastewater and natural gas from pipelines installed beneath the Gallatin River.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at or at 582-2648.

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