Request to Allow Asphalt Plant at West Valley Gravel Pit Appealed

Construction company wants to modify 2010 agreement to allow concrete and asphalt batch plant

By Justin Franz
A Schellinger Construction gravel pit off of Farm to Market Road northwest of Kalispell on May 27, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A decision on a request to allow a concrete and asphalt batch plant at a West Valley gravel pit has been delayed after drawing mixed reviews from nearby residents and an appeal.

The Flathead County Board of Adjustments was expected to consider a request by Schellinger Construction Co. to modify a conditional-use permit during its June 2 meeting, but after a local resident filed an appeal, it has been postponed to the board’s July meeting. The appeal is the latest in a string of battles over whether the property between West Valley Drive and Farm to Market Road is appropriate for industrial uses such as a gravel pit or concrete and asphalt batch plant.

In 2005, the construction company applied for a conditional-use permit to operate a gravel pit on a section of a 160-acre property in West Valley, west of Kalispell. That decision ultimately ended up in Flathead County District Court and the Montana Supreme Court. One of the primary concerns raised in the litigation was that the gravel pit would eventually grow into a more expansive operation. Later, the original permit was amended with a condition that read, “Asphalt and concrete batch plant operations are prohibited.”

However, in March 2010, the West Valley zoning regulations were amended to specify that asphalt and concrete batch plant operations were allowable under “gravel extraction” in the West Valley zoning district. Now, Schellinger wants to amend its original permit to reflect that change and expand its operations in West Valley.

In May, following a lengthy public discussion, the West Valley Land Use Advisory Committee voted against amending the permit, leaving the decision in the hands of the Flathead County Board of Adjustment.

The amendment request was originally set for consideration during the May 5 Board of Adjustment hearing but was pushed back to June “because of the multitude of public comments received,” and then again delayed until July.

A May staff report from the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Office states that amending the permit would have “minimal impact” on the surrounding area in part because the plant will be on a small part of the 160-acre property. It recommended that if the Board of Adjustment were to approve it, it should implement two conditions: that the operation still be subject to all other conditions of approval as outlined back in 2010 and that it adhere to all Montana Department of Environmental Quality regulations.

The county received more than 150 pages of comments about the application. Some stated that allowing the asphalt plant would be going back on that 2010 agreement. The letters also raised concerns about decreased property values and increased traffic, noise and odor from the plant.

But not all comments were against it. Some commented that having another asphalt plant in that part of the county would be beneficial for nearby road construction projects and local jobs.

On May 20, Charlene Iannucci filed an appeal of the decision to accept the request to modify the conditional-use permit. According to Mark Mussman, director of Flathead County Planning and Zoning, “appeals such as this stay all proceedings” until considered by the Board of Adjustments. The board will review the appeal at its July 7 meeting.

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