The Flathead County Board of Adjustment approved a conditional use permit for a major expansion at the Sonju Industrial facility in Kalispell, located on U.S. Highway 93 north of town.
The expansion will include demolishing a residence on the property and building a 19,513-square-foot addition that would house additional machinery, extra workspace, offices and more parking spaces.
Sonju Industrial currently works out of a 14,000-square-foot building, converted previously from an auto-body repair and coatings shop. The company also has a facility on U.S. Highway 93 south of Kalispell. Sonju Industrial is a firearms and aerospace component manufacturing company.
According to project designer Terry Kramer of Kramer Enterprises, the expansion has been in the works since 2009. The following year, Sonju Industrial got the go-ahead from the adjustment board for a CUP that included an expansion and a retail front that would have sold their firearms in a storefront, as well as an indoor shooting range.
Kramer noted that both the storefront and the shooting range were dropped from the current CUP request. He said the Sonju family hoped to include those aspects in their expansion in 2010, but the economy was not receptive at that point.
Now, Kramer said, business for Sonju Industrial is picking up considerable speed, with contracts with Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
“Now they’re rolling,” Kramer told the board of adjustment during the May 7 hearing.
The new, larger building would allow Sonju Industrial to house all of its operations in one place, Kramer said, which is especially important for its engineering department.
Sonju Industrial currently runs two shifts, with the day shift larger than the night shift, Kramer said.
The new building will take up a considerable amount of the existing 2.28-acre property, which is located within the Highway 93 North Zoning District. The land surrounding the facility is zoned SAG-10, an agricultural designation that does not allow manufacturing.
However, the property is an existing non-conforming use, meaning it was not conforming to agricultural uses before the zoning was put in place.
Kramer said the building colors would be muted, and there would not be lighted signage added to the property. The owners are aware of how close they are to the highway, Kramer said, and they don’t want to be an eyesore.
Along with the new building, the expansion will include adding 44 new parking spaces and shifting the highway entrance to the northern end of the parking lot. The plans also include drilling a new, 350-foot well, and an on-site septic drain field system. There will also be a stormwater retention feature.
Planning department staff recommended that the board approve the CUP, upon 11 conditions. Kramer said the Sonjus had no problem with the conditions, which include various aspects such as parking restrictions and lighting concerns.
After no public comment and very little discussion among the three board members present for the May 7 hearing, the CUP was approved unanimously.
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