The Sum of All Foolishness

By Beacon Staff

Bucky Wolford’s Glacier Mall, aka Glacier Town Center (no extra “e’s,” thank goodness) is going to have yet another public hearing, on Jan. 7. It should be a doozy, with everyone’s nerves freshly frayed by the just-ended North Kalispell Christmas Season Shopping Traffic Jam.

At the recent non-voting hearing before Kalispell City Council, Citizens for a Better Flathead head honchette called for a cumulative impacts analysis (CIA) of everything that has happened since Mr. Wolford first proposed his mall. Well, I agree with her for once. A consultant should analyze this.

So, here’s Dave Intergalactic Consulting’s Official CIA Executive Summary: Forcing the Wolford footprint out of the Rauthe property on La Salle was a boneheaded move that has munged things up beyond salvage.

You can send your checks c/o the Beacon. Thank you.

How and why could this happen?

First, let’s remember that Kalispell/Evergreen is the defacto employment and business hub of Flathead County. If you want to seriously shop, you come to “town.”

Next, the three largest population clusters include Whitefish and Columbia Falls, with Kalispell the largest. But central Kalispell already flows today’s traffic poorly and can’t take more unless we want to raze it flat and start over. Ain’t gonna happen.

So, where’s the next best place? The Tri City triangle, of course, highways 40, 2 and 93. Retailers wanting to capture the most market obviously should locate inside it, or on one of the highways comprising the triangle, preferably closest to the most customers, meaning Kalispell.

Smart retailers also want to locate where smart customers can use alternative ways to get to their store without traffic aggravations that might temper their shopping mood, and more importantly, smart planning would recognize that.

The smart spot? The Rauthe property between Rose Crossing and Reserve. Period. Certainly there were issues with hydrology, but nothing that smart engineers couldn’t fix with water curtains and runoff treatment facilities.

Transportation access and alternative routes to that point are numerous, from all points of the valley compass. Wolford’s preferred site would have given every outlying community a relatively straight shot as well as an alternative to going through sclerotic Kalispell.

Now, with the mass of retail landing on Hutton Ranch plus, and only there, everyone from the south has to go through town. Everyone from the east has to grab West Reserve and turn left, even sneaky smart Bigforkers. Remember, there’s no bypass yet, and the proposed bypass intersection might end up being another Malfunction Junction the way things are going. I imagine that going to town from Whitefish, battling through North Kalispell first, will be a real joy.

In the past decade, planning officials and the vocal public have forgotten the difference between prescriptive and anticipatory planning. Many citizens see growth as the enemy, and “planning” as a weapon in a battle, or a war. Fine, but as Prussian Field Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke so famously said: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” In civilian terms, if you prescribe something for somebody, you better anticipate what happens next.

State 35 was rebuilt in anticipation of a need for a safer southeast transport corridor. When La Salle became Highway 2, that again was in anticipation of future needs. When Flathead Business and Industry Council took steps several years back to offer a right of way from the head of Willow Glen to Snappy’s Corner in Evergreen, that was anticipation.

So, has that sense of anticipation and foresight been carried forward?

Seems not. Did anyone anticipate that the West Side bypass is now aimed smack at center mass of the new North Kalispell business district? Did anyone ever anticipate that placing Wolford’s project on La Salle would at least not add to the need for a bypass?

Well, why not?

So, now we are looking at another of Von Moltke’s truisms: “War is a matter of expedients.” Well, you betcha, now we’ll squabble over whether traffic lights or ramps are most expedient, when the real issue of how things got so munged up in the first place will never be dealt with. Good plan.