County to Move on Proposed Majestic Valley Zone Change

Shift to business zoning would allow for restaurant, hotel, and more signage

By Molly Priddy
Majestic Valley Arena on April 20, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead County Commission will make its final decision on an attempt to change the zoning for the land around the Majestic Valley Arena on U.S. Highway 93, an adjustment that would open up the adjacent lot to commercial development.

Jan and Bob Parker, the people behind Winter Park Ventures and Majestic Valley LLC, are seeking to change the zoning designation for the 37-acre lot south of the arena from an agricultural designation, SAG-5, to a business-friendly zone, B-3. Currently, the land is grassy rolling hills, along with a caretaker cabin and a pavilion.

The general idea, according to the Parkers, is to continue to fulfill their motto, which is “eat, sleep, compete.” With the new zoning designation, they would want to add businesses that would complement the arena, such as a restaurant, a hotel, and additional signage.

A hotel would be 60 or 70 rooms, Jan Parker told the commission during an April 20 hearing, and would be for those people competing at the arena. As it stands now, reining and cutting horses, which can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, must be left at the arena while the horses’ owners drive back into Kalispell for food and lodging.

Most of these owners would like to stay near their livestock, she said, and the Parkers would like to keep people off the road at all hours – during major competitions, sometimes the only warm-up time a competitor can book is at 3 a.m.

The Riverdale Land Use Advisory Committee, representing the Riverdale Neighborhood Plan in place, voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project, as did the Flathead County Planning Board.

In order to build a hotel, the Parkers would have to get a conditional use permit, and the commission also heard discussion about Kalispell potentially annexing the land due to water and sewer needs. The Parkers said they don’t mind building to city standards.

After hearing from the applicants, the commission decided to hold off on its final vote until April 27, allowing them more time to read public comment on the project.

Commissioner Phil Mitchell said his one concern with this project is that by approving it, the county might be setting up Kalispell to have to “come to the table” and work with the Parkers for water and sewer.

But overall, the commission said its job is to judge the zone change, not the potential project’s merits. There had been opposition to the project, most notably from Citizens for a Better Flathead, who said the Parkers’ needs could be addressed with a planned unit development (PUD) overlay, not a blanket zone for 40 acres. Mayre Flowers, executive director at CFBF, also said she thought the application was premature, given the annexation conversation with Kalispell.

The Parkers also said rumors that the land was already for sale are unfounded, and they plan on following through with their plans if the paperwork goes through.

“The arena has proven over the last 15 years to do everything we said it was going to do,” Jan Parker said.

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