North Shore Developers Sue County

By Beacon Staff

Developers of the North Shore Ranch subdivision near Somers filed a lawsuit against Flathead County late Wednesday afternoon, seeking a reversal of the county commissioners’ decision to deny the project last month.

On April 23, commissioners Joe Brenneman and Gary Hall voted against preliminary plat approval for the development, citing concerns with flooding, ground stability during seismic events and effects on the neighboring Flathead Waterfowl Production Area. Commissioner Dale Lauman voted to approve the development. The county planning board had approved the project 5-1 earlier in the month.

If passed, the North Shore Ranch Subdivision would’ve created about 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 near the intersection with Lower Valley Road.

In a prepared press release, Bill VanCanagan, the attorney representing the developers, Sean Averill and Keith Simon, said the lawsuit was necessary, because “the commission’s decision impacts hundreds of landowners and potentially thousands of acres in Flathead County.”

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.

The developers, however, contend that nearly three dozen subdivisions have been approved in Flathead County on land with flood easements since 2003 and that the decision would prevent development on several other properties with easements where development hasn’t yet taken place.

“This decision by the County Commission impacts more than just one developer and one project,” VanCanagan said. “This could potentially be the largest taking of land in Flathead County.”

The civil complaint also contends the commissioners held the subdivision to a higher standard than what was legally required by the law, pointing to the planning board’s decision which said the development had met or exceeded all of the county’s subdivision requirements.

“Subdivision regulations are clear,” VanCanagan said in the written release. “If a developer meets all the requirements, the county must approve the project. They (North Shore’s developers) not only met the requirements, they exceeded them. The work the developers undertook on the project is unprecedented.”

Related: Commissioners Deny North Shore Ranch

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