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Neighbors of KM Ranch project raise objections again

by HEIDI DESCH
Daily Inter Lake | January 18, 2023 1:00 AM

A revised proposal for a 155-acre piece of land on KM Ranch Road is just as flawed as a previously rejected plan for the property, neighbors told the Flathead County Planning Board on Wednesday night.

“This is the same dog with different fleas,” Joe DeCree told the board.

Montarise Developments, LLC is seeking to change the zoning from SAG-5 suburban agricultural to R-2.5 rural residential, reducing the minimum lot size from 5 acres to 2.5 acres. The previous request sought to change the zoning to R-1 suburban residential, which has a minimum lot size of 1 acre — a plan which the planning board voted against in October.

On Wednesday, the board tabled its discussion on the proposal noting the stacks of public comments submitted. It will take up the matter again at its Feb. 8 meeting.

“I can’t honestly say I’ve had enough time to properly review this information,” Chair Jeff Larson said.

But the developer behind the project said the new request is designed to address the main concerns brought up previously, including reducing the density thus making it fit with the neighborhood while reducing the traffic impact. The plan also puts a buffer between the development and the county landfill to the south and delineates a 100-foot buffer between the subdivision and its neighbors.

Glenn Edwards, vice president of Montarise, said the new project has been designed to keep the estimated vehicle trips at 775 per day, which is in keeping with the current zoning on the project.

“We are trying to think about what would fit and what would work,” Edwards said. “We wanted to create affordable housing last time, but nobody wanted that. This housing is for the more well-heeled.”

Montarise is only seeking a zone change at this time. However, it presented plans that outline the kind of development that may be in the works if the change is approved.

That plan would call for developing the property in two phases with the potential of 103 housing units including 33 single-family homes. In addition, 32 multi-family “adult bungalow” units, 26 recreation rental cabin units and 12 hospice care dwelling units are proposed.

During public comment, concerns about increasing traffic dominated but worries were also raised about water quality and changes to the character of the neighborhood.

Julie Rommel, a member of Friends for Responsible Rural Growth, a group formed in opposition to the proposal, played a video from the perspective of a vehicle driving along KM Ranch Road to reiterate the effects neighbors say will come from increased traffic from the development. Many residents said increasing traffic in the already congested intersection of KM Ranch Road and U.S. 93 is their primary concern regarding the potential development.

“KM Ranch is already dangerous and has unsafe conditions,” Rommel said. “A developer that cares wouldn’t propose this kind of development.”

Joe Coco said the property is zoned SAG-5 for a reason.

“This plan is inconsistent with the culture of the community,” he said. “The plan tonight is for residents that prioritize leisure over land stewardship and agriculture.”

Chuck Curry told the planning board that the decision to reject the proposal should be simple.

“The developer purchased property that was appropriately zoned,” he said. “You said no before and you should say no again.”

THE PLANNING board also gave a negative recommendation for a request for a zone change from Mary Lee Thamert for a major land use review to allow for the construction of a single-family dwelling on property located at 140 River Bend Court in West Glacier.

The board gave a negative recommendation for a request from Majestic View, LLC for a 20-acre parcel at 150 Majestic View Drive near Kalispell. The request seeks to change the zoning from AG-20 to SAG-10.

The board gave a positive recommendation for a zone change request from Myongsuk Chon and Seung Jun Jung for 12.88 acres at 1318 Armstrong Lane, Kalispell. The request is to change the zoning from SAG-10 to SAG-5.

photo

KM Ranch Road south of Whitefish on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)

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