STARLING SUBDIVISION PROPOSAL
The Kalispell City Council took action on two key development projects Monday night, easing the way for one of the largest subdivision proposals in Flathead County history and setting up obstacles in the path of another, smaller project.
Council voted, eight to one with Councilman Randy Kenyon dissenting, to amend the city’s growth policy to accommodate for denser development in the Starling development proposal. Allowing for the higher housing density will enable Starling’s developers to build up to 3,000 units on 640 acres bordered by Stillwater Road, Four Mile Drive, Spring Creek Road and West Reserve Drive.
Executives for The Aspen Group, the company developing Starling, said its location near the new Glacier High school, the Reserve Loop, and commercial corridor along U.S. 93 made the higher density appropriate.
“We feel that this is a logical extension of Kalispell,” said Greg Stratton, vice president of Aspen’s Montana division. “When you look at areas around Kalispell we wonder if you could find something better at this density.”
The vote simply allowed the growth policy to be amended, and does not yet deal with platting or more detailed plans for the development. Still, comments from the council regarding the Starling project were overwhelmingly positive and seem to indicate the development will move forward as planned.
“This project will make us all proud,” said Councilman Hank Olson. “They want to have certain areas that they can do a lot of things with; I think we ought to give them that latitude.”
“I believe that we are going to see a development that the city of Kalispell can be proud of,” added Mayor Pam Kennedy.
But Marc Nevas, who lives adjacent to the proposed development and has been a leader of neighbors opposed to Starling, questioned why the council is bending the growth policy to allow Starling an additional 440 units, when current zoning would allow 2,560 homes. Starling’s proposal also lacks a traffic impact study by the department of public works, Nevas added.
“How can you evaluate this without a traffic impact study?” Nevas said. “And where is the public access to this information?”
Olson tried to address these concerns, before voting in favor of Starling.
“The traffic problem – it is going to be a problem, but it’s a problem all over town,” Olson said. “Do I tell a guy he can’t come to Kalispell and build if he follows all the rules? This is America.”
Things did not go as smoothly for developers of the proposed Willow Creek subdivision, a 30-acre project at the intersection of Foys Lake Road and Valley View Drive.
The site for Willow Creek is currently zoned industrial, and the developer requested an amendment to the growth policy to change the land to suburban residential.
A number of neighbors of the proposed project, many of whom live on Stone Ridge Drive, spoke out against it. Even council members wary of the development said simply changing the zoning designation of the land would protect the value of surrounding properties by preventing a factory, sawmill or feed lot from buying the site.
“I would much sooner have a residential development next to me than I would an industrial development,” said councilman Bob Hafferman, whose property overlooks Willow Creek’s site. “I don’t know what some of you people think but you can put a lot of things in an industrial development.”
But Kenyon wasn’t ready to give the green light to any aspect of the project – not yet.
“This project as a whole just seems to kind of be a mess between traffic and the density,” Kenyon said. “I’m actually going to side with the public, I’ve changed my mind since I walked in two hours ago.”
The motion to reject the Willow Creek request failed on a five to four vote.
DR. DANIEL ABBOTT REQUEST
The council also had harsh words in its denial of a request from Dr. Daniel Abbott for relief from Kalispell’s building codes to purchase a setback easement on the Buffalo Hills golf course – in order to allow Abbott to make amends for an illegally constructed addition built over his garage.
“It’s been two years. We have seen absolutely no progress on this issue as far as I can tell,” Kenyon said. “We need to remedy this situation and we need to send a message out to everybody else out there who thinks that they can do whatever they want and figure out some way to get out of it at some later date.”
Abbott could not attend the meeting due to his demands as a doctor, but had an attorney present.
The council voted, six to three, to deny relief to Abbott. The issue will likely now move to the courts.
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