Flathead County Commissioners voted 2-1 Wednesday morning to deny the North Shore Ranch subdivision.
Commissioners Joe Brenneman and Gary Hall voted against preliminary plat approval for the project, citing concerns with flooding, ground stability during seismic events and effects on wildlife. Commissioner Dale Lauman voted to approve the development.
Overall, Hall and Brenneman said, North Shore developers Sean Averill and Keith Simon had put forth a very good subdivision; they just chose the wrong location for it.
“I want to say this in the very beginning: It was probably one of best laid out subdivisions that’s come before us in Flathead County for a long time,” Hall said. “But there were three major issues for me that simply weren’t – and I’m not sure could be – addressed on that property.”
If passed, the North Shore Ranch Subdivision would’ve created 290 single-family residential lots on 367 acres. The property borders approximately 1.6 miles of unzoned property on the south side of Montana Highway 82, beginning just east of Somers Road and extending east to about half a mile west of the intersection with Lower Valley Road.
It also shares an eastern border with the Flathead Waterfowl Production Area – one of the sticking points for Hall and Brenneman, who said the subdivision’s density and domestic animals would have negative impacts on neighboring species.
PPL Montana holds flood easements for property around Flathead Lake, including the proposed subdivision location. Hall and Brenneman said approving the subdivision would place future homeowners at risk and possibly open the county to litigation if those homes were ever flooded.
“By giving it approval, we’d be implicitly or even directly saying that it’s safe to live there, when we know that it can legally be flooded,” Brenneman said. “As a matter of policy, we can’t put those future homeowners or county taxpayers at risk.”
Hall was also concerned with thin soils atop shallow groundwater on the property. In an earthquake – of which there have been several in past decades – the ground could liquefy beneath the homes, he said, putting the county at further risk for litigation.
The developers have the option to appeal to the Flathead County District Court within 30 days of the commissioner’s decision.
Related: Planning Board Approves North Shore Subdivision
Related: Tug of War Over the North Shore
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