Bigfork Steering Committee Hammers out a Neighborhood Plan

By Beacon Staff

What will Bigfork look like in five years, 10, 15? What do we want it to look like? Where will it grow, how, why? The Bigfork Steering Committee is tackling these questions by creating a Neighborhood Plan.

“The document is our attempt to communicate with the county,” member Don Loranger said to the BSC. Loranger said the committee created the document in an effort to show incoming developers, and Flathead and Lake counties, how it wants to grow and look.

“What we thought we were going to need, what we have, and what we think we’re going to need,” is how County Planner BJ Grieve describes the overview of any neighborhood plan. Grieve has worked with the BSC to help them hit all the key elements for the document. The goal is to create a guide for future growth in and around the village.

“As growth occurs,” explained Grieve, “you cross a threshold of safety, health, and efficiency.”

In effect: the neighborhood plan anticipates where houses, businesses, schools, roads, and municipal services will be needed in the future. It looks at what’s there now, projects what will be needed later, and allocates space appropriate for those needs. However, though the plan designates areas practical for new houses, commercial enterprises, public facilities, or farmland; it isn’t immobile.

“A neighborhood plan cannot specifically make somebody do something,” explains Grieve. This is the distinction between guiding and enforcing. The neighborhood plan is the underlying philosophy; from there zoning is created to enforce land use.

Early in 2005 the Bigfork Steering Committee re-formed to update a 1993 survey of the Bigfork area. This update takes into account how land has been used over the past 14 years: the sewer line extension, housing developments, and new businesses.

The current edition of the Bigfork Neighborhood Plan is attached to the Bigfork Steering Committee Web site: http://www.bigforksteering.org/index.html. The BSC will forward the completed plan to the Flathead County Planning Board and the County Commissioners for final approval.