The Flathead County Commission is expected to vote on a major land-use permit in the coming weeks that would allow for the construction of a number of guest cabins near Lake Five in Coram.
The Flathead County Planning Board voted 4-2 on Jan. 8 to send the permitting request to the commission. Planning Director Mark Mussman said once the planning department sends all of the permitting information to the commissioners, they could vote on it in the coming weeks, possibly in late January or early February.
The board backed the permit despite objections from some neighboring property owners and the Middle Canyon Land Use Advisory Committee, which late last year raised concerns over the proximity of the proposed guest cabins to the water’s edge. Mussman said a revised permit application that went before the planning board this month stated that those structures would be built further back from the water.
Currently, there is a single-family home, three guest cabins and a number of other buildings (including a replica train caboose and fire tower that can be rented out) on the 23.1-acre piece of property called the Whistle Stop Retreat. Some of the homes are already listed on AirBnB. The owner, Susan Dietz, wants to build a total of 10 new guest cabins that could be rented out, as well as some auxiliary buildings.
During the Jan. 8 meeting, a number of neighbors spoke out against the project. Mussman said most of their concerns stemmed from the fact that Dietz had already built a number of structures on the property prior to getting a permit and worries that the project isn’t an appropriate use for the property.
Dietz is currently involved in an ongoing lawsuit and countersuit with surrounding property owners. In a lawsuit filed in Flathead County District Court on Nov. 11, 2019, Dietz accuses a number of neighbors of trespassing and being a nuisance, starting that “(the defendants) have stopped on the easement roadway, uttered threatening and offensive language, and made obscene gestures to Plaintiff’s employees, agents and contractors.” The suit seeks to extinguish the easement through Dietz’s property. The suit also alleges that the neighbors destroyed speed bumps that had been installed on the road.
The neighbors have filed a countersuit against Dietz requesting that her suit be dismissed and that the road easement remain unchanged. The neighbors are also seeking damages for emotional distress.