Planning Board Deadlocks on Evergreen Mobile-Home Project

Subdivision seeks to put 122 rental units on 33 acres off West Evergreen Drive

By Molly Priddy

Despite a public hearing going into the early morning hours, the Flathead County Planning Board won’t forward a recommendation to the county commission regarding a proposed mobile-home subdivision in Evergreen.

The board deadlocked after midnight on April 12, voting 3-3 on a motion to approve West Evergreen Estates, which proposes 122 rental spaces for mobile homes on about 33 acres in the community east of Kalispell.

The point of the hearing, which began on the evening of April 11, was for the planning board to consider the preliminary plat of the West Evergreen Estates subdivision, and give it a recommendation for denial or approval as it moves along to the Flathead County Commission for the final decision.

More than 20 people spoke out in opposition of the project, which they said would cause their property values to decrease and overwhelm the local infrastructure.

“We feel like we’re being completely unheard,” said Derek Vandeberg, who lives near the proposed project. “You’re essentially taking money out of our pockets if this continues.”

Eric Mulcahy of Sands Surveying, who represented developers Michael Seaman and Garry Seaman, said the design of the subdivision would allow for almost 9 acres of open space and 3.7 units per acre, which is a similar density to other residential zones allowed in Flathead County.

There would also be pathways leading around and through the subdivision, providing access all the way to the Evergreen school, which sits directly on the eastern border of the subdivision. The school also requested a fence.

“We’re trying to make a development that is sensitive to the neighborhood,” Mulcahy said.

One of the main bones of contention during the meeting was a traffic study conducted by the developers. Neighbors to the project said the study grossly underestimated the number of additional trips the subdivision would add to the already-busy West Evergreen Drive.

Opponents also said the addition of more than 100 new people, which would likely include children, would add more pressure to emergency services and the schools, which are already near capacity. And since the people would be renting the spaces, they wouldn’t be contributing to local taxes like homes with foundations would, several people said. There were also concerns about the upkeep and age of the trailers.

Only one person spoke in favor of the development, saying it would provide more affordable housing in a valley that desperately needs it.

After the public testimony, the planning board asked the developers if they would consider another traffic study, which they preferred not to do. The board made a motion to give a recommendation of approval to the project, which ended in a 3-3 tie, thus forwarding no recommendation. The board did, however, place a condition on the age of trailers allowed in the subdivision.

West Evergreen Estates will face another hearing in May in front of the county’s Board of Adjustment in order to obtain the conditional-use permit needed to put trailers in that zone. There was already a meeting to determine that in March, and the board voted unanimously to approve the permit, but the meeting’s audio didn’t properly record and the Flathead County Attorney’s Office recommended holding a re-do meeting.

That meeting will be held May 1 at 6 p.m. at the South Campus building in Kalispell.

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