Public Comment Reopened for Proposed Hodgson Road Casino

Applicant chooses to move hearing with Board of Adjustment to September

By Molly Priddy

The attempted pursuit of a new casino and tavern on Hodgson Road south of Whitefish received extra attention at the Flathead County Board of Adjustment meeting on Aug. 2.

The proposed 4,500-square-foot tavern and casino would be located next to Ohs Auto Body on U.S. Highway 93, with the entrance on Hodgson Road. The project’s applicant and landowner is Gary Ohs, through Den Gar Properties, LLC.

On Aug. 2, the county’s Board of Adjustment was supposed to discuss and decide on a conditional use permit that would allow the project to move forward within the Blanchard Lake Zoning District. However, since there were only three board members present, the board gave the applicant the opportunity to hold off for a month and wait for the full five-member board.

Board member Calvin Dyck told Eric Mulcahy of Sands Surveying, who appeared on behalf of Den Gar Properties, that a decision only needs a three-person consensus from the board, so they could move on it during the Aug. 2 meeting, but if one member decided to vote against it, the project would be dropped.

Mulcahy opted to forgo the meeting for a month, and will reappear before the board on Sept. 6 to request the conditional use permit from the full five-member board.

The project had received no public comment up to the Aug. 2 meeting, but at least a dozen residents showed up to the meeting to talk about the casino. One man said he would have commented on the project, but he wasn’t informed it was happening.

Staff with the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Department explained that the office has to notify landowners within 150 feet of the property line, which meant many of the people at the meeting did not receive a letter about it.

But since the property owners decided to wait until the September meeting, planning staff said public comment on the project is open again, and will be taken until 5 p.m. on Sept. 6.

According to the planning staff report on the project, the applicant would tear down the existing buildings on the property and replace them with the casino building. County regulations require a conditional use permit for casinos and taverns located within B-2 zoning.

The entire property is about 3.8 acres, and would include 71 seats and four employees at maximum shift, meaning it would require 22 parking spaces. Access to the building would be an approach off of Hodgson Road, to the east side of the building.

Planning staff wrote in the report that the casino isn’t anticipated to “generate excessive traffic.” The report said planning staff finds the applicant request “generally supported by review criteria.”

The Sept. 6 meeting takes place at 6 p.m. Board of Adjustment meetings usually take place on the second floor of the Earl Bennett Building, but planning director Mark Mussman said anyone planning on attending should double-check before the meeting, because it could be held in the new South Campus Building depending on how quickly the planning department is moved over there.

For the full staff report, visit www.flathead.mt.gov/planning_zoning, and click the option for “Meeting Information.” The planning office is available at 406-751-8200.

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