Petition to Pave KM Ranch Road Withdrawn

Opponents to paving project say they would support a different type of road upgrade

By Molly Priddy

The petition seeking a Rural Special Improvement District to pay for the paving of KM Ranch Road has been withdrawn.

Marshall Friedman, who spearheaded the effort to get KM Road paved, sent a letter to the Flathead County Commission on Nov. 5 to officially withdraw his petition.

Friedman noted in the letter that all of the documents filed with the petition on Oct. 14 are now public property, and could be used in a future attempt to pave the road.

The project proposed to pave nearly six miles of the dirt road, to the tune of more than $3.8 million. An RSID divides the cost of a project among the county and the residents of the proposed project; the KM Ranch Road project proposed that the residents of 157 affected lots in the RSID would pay $1,373,108 and the county would pay $2,491,783.

The proposal also outlined the potential cost per lot for the project, with the annual cost projected to be a maximum of $650 per lot.

In a Nov. 6 interview, Friedman said he pulled the proposal because he felt it was in the best interest for the neighborhood as a whole; any paving project should be the result of neighbors working together, he said, not because one side beat the other.

“I think a lousy way to deal with this problem is by having campaigns against each other and people mad at each other and people vilifying each other,” Friedman said.

Friedman said when he learned that the project was causing a rift in the neighborhood, he wanted to pull the proposal to have the neighborhood come together to discuss the future of the road, whether that meant paving or not.

“I think it’s worth not getting the road paved to get this neighborhood back together,” he said.

The potential RSID caused consternation among many of the residents on KM Road, some of whom said the cost was too high for long-time residents to add on to their tax bills, and that paving the road will only draw more traffic.

Friedman said he wanted to step away as a leader on this issue and give it to a committee, which could then figure out a way to help residents pay the increased taxes, but he received backlash on that idea as well.

Bonnie Hodges, who has lived on her property on KM Ranch Road for 27 years, was part of a group of residents who actively opposed the paving. Her family would have been responsible for paying for three lots if the RSID had gone through.

“We’re relieved,” Hodges said on Nov. 6. “We feel that we did the right thing for the majority of the residents on KM Ranch Road.”

There were about 12 people in the group who dedicated their time to writing letters, knocking on doors, and doing the legwork needed to oppose the measure, Hodges said, but the group represented the roughly 50 residents who didn’t want paving.

The group doesn’t oppose upgrading the road, Hodges said, but paving wasn’t the answer. She would like to see the road’s base improved, gravel added, and dust-abatement measures in place.

“We also understand that an upgrade is in order for the county,” she said. “We would like to make that happen.”

County Administrator Mike Pence said the withdrawal of the petition means the project is no longer active for the county, but that doesn’t mean the door is closed forever on the matter.

The county was willing to pay for two-thirds of the project having set aside money in the Capital Improvement Project funds, Pence said, but the county wouldn’t initiate such a project; it has to come from the residents.

“If there was enough support, we had indicated that we would pay our share,” Pence said. “We had indicated support as long as the neighborhood supported it.”

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