South Kalispell Residents Raise Objections to Proposed Apartment Complex

Developer to rework plans before submitting application to city for large apartment complex on Airport Road

By Dillon Tabish
The Lofts at Ashley. Courtesy rendering

For over 20 years, the 3.79-acre plot of land along Airport Road and Teal Drive sat vacant with grass berms and a thicket of pine trees, creating a park-like atmosphere and forested buffer as Ashley Park subdivision cropped up around it.

Except the unzoned county land was never deeded as a park, and a developer has now purchased it with plans to construct an apartment complex.

The initial proposal, valued at $7 million and submitted to the City of Kalispell in early September, shows five three-story buildings with a total of 96 units — 81 two-bedroom units and 15 three-bedroom units — and 177 vehicle parking spaces. It would be located just north of a new elementary school that will be built in the coming years.

Almost immediately, the proposed multi-family complex sparked resistance from the surrounding neighborhood, and nearly 50 people crowded into City Hall last week during a work session with the Kalispell Planning Board.

“There has been a longstanding understanding and verbal understanding from the former developer of our subdivision that (the property) was a green zone. Over the years, it’s been used that way,” said David Curtis, a resident on nearby Canvasback Court who hosted a recent informational meeting with other neighbors about the proposed apartment.

“We feel unanimously that a 96-unit complex would detrimentally impact the integrity of our subdivision.”

Other residents voiced their concerns about congestion and noise from the multi-family complex as well as privacy issues from the three-story rooms overlooking existing homes. Others claimed the complex would hurt property values in the area.

“Would you want this in your backyard?” Phyllis Lucht, another nearby resident, asked planning board members.

David Weber, a Kalispell resident who is spearheading the development, said he would work with his architect to answer some of the concerns raised during the meeting. Weber’s architect mentioned reducing the size and scope to 90 units as a possible change.

“It’s our desire to develop a project that fits south Kalispell,” Weber said.

“We want to work and collaborate with our neighbors.”

Weber said the apartments would not be “low-income housing.”

“The bottom line is we want to make it a great project and part of that is working through some of these items that are a concern with some people,” he said.

Once Weber finalizes a plan, he will submit it to the city seeking annexation, a conditional use permit and a zoning change to RA-2, or residential/apartment. The planning board would review a formal application at a future meeting, which has not been set, and vote on whether to recommend the project for approval. After that, the city council would review the planning board’s recommendation and decide whether it is approved and could proceed.

During the informational work session, Kalispell Senior Planner Jarod Nygren said city staff identified a few recommended changes with the initial proposal while receiving roughly 30 emails from concerned residents. He recommended more buffering along the west side of the property next to existing homes and encouraged the developer construct a higher berm at a minimum of six-feet tall with a 30-foot setback from the residences to shield noise and visibility.

He also acknowledged concerns about the three-story building on the northwest corner of the property that would look down over existing homes.

Mike Morgan, the project’s architect, defended the apartment complex as a new development that would fit the goals of the city’s new urban renewal plan for south Kalispell, which seeks to shape redevelopment in an area that is expected to grow in the coming years, especially with the emergence of a new school.

Morgan said growth in the area is “inevitable” and that multi-family housing serves an important need in a community, providing an alternative to single-family housing.

“We’re working hard at making a real nice quality living environment,” Morgan said.

“I hope we can work together.”

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