Despite vocal opposition from neighboring residents, the Kalispell Planning Board recommended granting annexation and a conditional-use permit for a proposed 324-unit apartment complex off Two Mile Drive.
The city council will now consider the board’s recommendation and decide whether to approve it at a March 5 meeting.
The Feb. 13 decision came two months after Spokane-based Bytech Construction LLC for the Crossings at Spring Creek asked the planning board to annex the property into the city and approve a conditional-use permit. In December, the board listened to concerns from nearby residents about additional traffic, storm water and visual impacts and requested more information from the developer prior to approval.
The development would be built in six phases and include 15 three-story buildings, as well as a clubhouse, pickleball court and basketball court. There would also be garages for each apartment surrounding the complex. The apartments would be rented at market value, and Two Mile Drive would serve as the primary access to the complex, although eventually the developer would like to extend Teton Street into the development.
Kalispell Senior Planner Jarod Nygren reported earlier this month that the developer had responded to some of the planning board’s questions. A new traffic memorandum stated that the development would have minimal impact on the surrounding roads, except for a service “reduction” at the intersections of Hawthorne and Two Mile Drive and Hawthorne and Three Mile Drive, where drivers could experience an additional average delay of three seconds.
The Kalispell Public Works Department also reviewed a storm water memo from the developer that stated the impacts to the surrounding community would be minimal.
City regulations call for a full traffic study and storm water impact review prior to issuing building permits, which could happen later this year.
At the Feb. 13 meeting, the planning board unanimously voted to recommend that the city council annex the 15-acre plot of land into the city of Kalispell under RA-2 zoning, a designation that allows for denser development with one housing unit for every 1,500 square feet of land. Most of the land surrounding the proposed development is zoned as RA-1, which allows for one housing unit for every 3,000 square feet of land. Most of the surrounding buildings are single-family homes.
The board then moved into discussions about whether to recommend approval of a conditional-use permit. Board President Chad Graham opened the floor for public comment. Many present where frustrated that the board voted on annexation prior to public comment.
“The questions we have asked have either gone unanswered or have been glazed over by the developer,” said Marilyn Driscoll, a resident who lives near the proposed development.
Graham briefly paused the public hearing to note that the comment period for annexation was back in December and that the Feb. 13 public comment period was to focus on the request for a conditional-use permit.
More than a dozen people spoke out against the project, with two people calling it a “monstrosity.”
The biggest issue for local residents was concern over traffic and frustration that the developer had only produced a traffic memorandum and not a formal study. Planning Director Tom Jentz said it was normal for a developer to provide a memorandum at this time instead of a formal, more expensive study because it’s still early in the project.
But that reminder did nothing to sooth people’s concerns. One woman who rejected the findings of the traffic memorandum, which said there would only be a three-second delay for drivers, said she could produce a better traffic study while she was out walking her dog.
“You’re just asking for a demolition derby out there on Two Mile Drive (if this gets approved),” said Dave Mumby, whose mother lives near the development. “It’s going to be a fiasco.”
After hearing public comment, board member George Giavasis said he agreed with residents that the apartment complex did not seem to fit “the character” of the neighborhood, although he also noted that the city needs more housing.
Toward the end of the nearly three-hour meeting, the board voted four to one to recommend that the city approve the conditional-use permit. Giavasis was the dissenting vote.
The city council is expected to take action on both the annexation and conditional-use permit at its March 5 meeting.