Kalispell Prepares to Develop Southern End

By Beacon Staff

The stage is set for large-scale development along Kalispell’s south side, with the city council voting Monday to annex 82 acres between U.S. Highway 93 and Lower Valley Road, and holding a public hearing on a zoning change that would facilitate development of some 550 acres along the west side of U.S. 93.

No major objections were brought forth by the public at the hearing to change the zoning in an area loosely defined as south of Cemetery Road, east of Airport Road, west of Demersville Road and north of Rocky Cliff Drive. Siderius Family Limited Partnership wants to eliminate the light industrial and suburban residential zoning designations in this area to accommodate a 207-acre development with high-density residential homes and a commercial center. Initial sketches of the project indicate 523 dwelling units, though numbers are likely to change as the project progresses.

Assuming the city approves the zoning change, City Planner Sean Conrad indicated Siderius would request annexation of the 207 acres sometime in the coming weeks.

Council voted unanimously to annex the 82-acre tract, which is owned by Gardner Investments, LLC, and zoned it industrial commercial. The zoning vote, however, also had a planned-unit-development (PUD) placeholder, which gives the council further say in how the Gardner property develops.

Bill Goodman, president of the downtown improvement district, praised the development on the south side of Kalispell, but questioned whether these areas needed to be zoned to accommodate new office space, of which an abundance already exists in the city’s downtown. He noted a good portion of retail businesses have already moved out of downtown to Kalispell’s northern commercial retail district.

“The niche that downtown has is office (space) and it really is our last niche,” Goodman told the council. “What you’re doing is you’re approving a competing downtown.”

Some council members asked Conrad what could be done to relieve such concerns by the downtown business community regarding new development to the south. Conrad replied that, in the case of the Gardner PUD placeholder and whatever PUD Siderius eventually brings forward, the council could – further along in the process – limit the development of any new office space that might already be available downtown.

Andy Miller, co-developer of Old School Station, and Mayre Flowers, executive director of Citizens for a Better Flathead, praised the zoning changes to foster residential development on Kalispell’s southern end. Flowers also spoke in support of the Siderius’ plan to use community land trusts to create affordable housing. A community land trust is an arrangement by which an individual purchases a house, but a trust maintains ownership of the land underneath, keeping housing costs low.

On the north side of Kalispell, council voted unanimously in favor of a planned-unit-development agreement for 80 acres of the Valley Ranch development, owned by Gateway Properties, Inc. It includes 85 residential lots, 33 townhouse lots, a senior living facility with 104 units and an apartment condominium lot capable of accommodating up to 160 dwellings. Questions persist, however, as to how the city will accommodate the water and sewer needs of these new developments north of the city.

Goldberg Properties Inc., the developer of Spring Prairie Center in north Kalispell, requested a one-year extension for the third phase of the project so to line up financing for this phase. Council granted the request unanimously.