Starling Sails Through

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell City Council approved Monday night the first phase of the Starling subdivision project, a development over a square mile that will roughly equal the downtown area of the city over the next 20 years.

Council voted unanimously to annex a parcel of land in northwest Kalispell, bordered on the east by Stillwater Road, south by Four Mile Drive, west by Spring Creek Road and north by West Reserve Drive.

In keeping with their idea that Starling would, over time, extend the core of the city of Kalispell, council members voted unanimously in favor of R-3 zoning for Starling, a density similar to the neighborhoods downtown.

The council then went on to approve Phase 1 of the development, approving plats for 236 lots on a 63.3-acre portion of the 640 acre project site. Most of those lots would be single family home sites, but seven would be set aside for multifamily units and 32 lots would have the option of being commercially developed.

The Starling presentation and council’s votes had the air of a foregone conclusion. Council members have long made it known that they believe Starling is an ideal way to expand Kalispell, provide affordable housing and grow in a smart way. Further, with its location near the new Glacier High School and the commercial development along U.S. 93 North, council members said Starling is going up in the right part of town.

But Starling’s opponents still turned out to criticize Starling’s developers, the Aspen Group, and city council for rushing through approval for the subdivision and failing to adequately seek input from nearby landowners.

Marc Nevas, who has led a group of homeowners opposed to Starling, questioned why the city council was failing to consider the development’s impacts on traffic.

“Where is the written evaluation of the traffic study? Why are you not insisting on it? Why waive updates to the study?” Nevas said. “Traffic will be the number one problem in Kalispell – we should be planning for it and providing for the future.”

Mayre Flowers, executive director of Citizens for a Better Flathead, questioned how the city was going to provide water to 3,000 new homes and wanted to see more details of the proposed parkland for the development.

City planners and council members repeatedly emphasized that they were simply taking action on the first phase of the development, and that there would be ample opportunity to vote on adjustments to the development and any problems that may arise over time for the next approximately 15 phases.

But Starling’s critics seemed to know their opposition would be in vain. They sat through the meeting chuckling to themselves and shaking their heads. When Starling passed, they got up and left.

City council also voted to approve the Ashley Heights subdivision, an eight and a half acre parcel on the south side of Sunnyside Drive with the proposed U.S. Highway 93 bypass serving as the western boundary. After months of back and forth between the developers, city council and planning board, Ashley Heights was approved for R-2, Single Family Residential zoning.