The Flathead County Planning Board unanimously voted for a major lakeshore variance requested on behalf of the Lakeside Marina during a June 10 meeting.
The recommendation will be passed along to the Flathead County Commission for final approval.
The proposal, presented by APEC Engineering, Inc., includes building a new concrete retaining wall in a manmade channel of the Lakeside Marina property, which would then be filled in and used for a paved parking surface and boardwalk.
The marina, acquired by Lakeside Marina Resort LLC in February 2019, is part of the Flathead Harbor, which also includes the Harbor Grille.
“This is the first businessman who’s stepped up,” Lakeside community member Bruce Young said.
Young, who was in favor of the plan, referenced the water quality in the existing channel, where stagnant water accumulates due to poor water circulation. Runoff from nearby Bierney Creek as well as the highway currently discharges into the channel.
The proposed project would include a storm water filtration system intended to collect overflow from a Montana Department of Transportation culvert along the U.S. Highway 93. A letter from Applied Water Consulting submitted with the application classifies the groundwater feeding into the channel as poor and “a negative impact on the water quality of Flathead Lake.” The staff report agreed that the change would result in improved water quality near the lakeshore.
In addition to the added parking spaces, the proposal includes plans for a sidewalk, which will allow for safe pedestrian passage along the side of the highway. Community member Margaret Davis, who also supported the plan, requested the board condition of a public easement for use of the proposed sidewalk along approximately 100 feet of the property. The board approved the condition, which will allow pedestrians a safe alternative to the current uneven dirt path along the highway.
The board also heard public comment on an updated request from the Saint Herman Orthodox Church for its new location on Morning View Drive west of Kalispell, first brought up at the Aug. 14 meeting. Concerns raised by members of the public included increased traffic in the area as well as potential light pollution and lack of landscaping.
The proposal includes a change to the parking lot and driveway design to a single entrance into the property from Morning View Drive. A traffic study conducted by an engineering firm in February showed that traffic entering and leaving the church during peak usage would lead to only minimal delays at intersections and would not impact the service of nearby roads.
Father Daniel Kirk of Saint Herman Orthodox told the board and public that the church was willing to work with nearby residents to minimize visual disruption to the area, specifically addressing concerns regarding the lighting of the parking lot and entrance road.
After discussion, the board unanimously voted to send the plan forward to the commission for final approval.
The board also held hearings on a number of other zoning and subdivision requests that all passed.