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County planning board votes against KM Ranch proposal

by HEIDI DESCH
Daily Inter Lake | October 19, 2022 1:00 AM

Agreeing with neighbors that a large subdivision doesn’t fit the character of the neighborhood, the Flathead County Planning Board on Wednesday put a negative recommendation on a proposal that could add housing and commercial development along KM Ranch Road.

Planning board members echoed statements made by the public at a previous meeting saying a requested zone change for 155 acres just north of the county landfill doesn’t fit with the surrounding zoning and a new subdivision would increase traffic at an already dangerous area where KM Ranch intersects with U.S. 93.

“This is probably the first time in 20 years that I’m going to vote against a proposal that could increase housing,” board member Greg Stevens said. “I don’t like land use regulations restricting residential development, but this is too much for the infrastructure. The infrastructure is just not there to handle this zone change.”

The board voted in favor of the recommendation 6-1 with board member Gary Votapka voting in opposition. Recommendations from the planning board are forwarded to the county commissioners for final consideration.

Montarise Developments, LLC is seeking to change the zoning from SAG-5 suburban agricultural to R-1 suburban residential, reducing the minimum lot size from 5 acres to 1 acre.

Under current zoning, the Montarise property could be developed with about 30 lots, but following the zone change that would move to about 150 lots.

Though the issue being considered is only the zone change, Montarise representatives have presented information on further plans to develop 268 housing units made up of single-family homes and multi-family units, while designating 20 acres for commercial use, including for a 73-unit RV park along U.S. 93. Documents submitted to the county show that the development would include 44 acres of open space and parks.

Planning board member Buck Breckenridge said the property sits in the heart of an area with low-density residential and agricultural zoning, and it wouldn’t make sense to “leapfrog” residential zoning to the property when the nearest similar zoning is across U.S. 93 in Happy Valley.

“This would set a precedent for residential zoning on KM Ranch Road,” he said. “KM Ranch is not ready for residential zoning.”

Board Chair Jeff Larsen said he couldn’t vote for the proposed zoning because there isn’t anything else that dense in the area.

“My biggest concern is compatibility with the neighborhood,” he said.

Montarise representatives have said the project would bring needed housing to the Flathead Valley.

Surrounding neighborhoods have vehemently opposed the project saying increased traffic would create a safety issue and it would alter the character of the neighborhood.