County Planning Board Unanimously Votes Against Rolling Acres Development

The board took up the issue after hundreds of public comments last month, voted to send negative recommendation to commissioners

By Micah Drew
The site of the proposed Rolling Acres subdivision, located west of Columbia Falls Stage Road and just north of Kingfisher Lane east of Kalispell, as seen on Sept. 10, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead County planning board at its Oct. 14 meeting voted unanimously to forward a negative recommendation of the Rolling Acres subdivision to the county commissioners, handing a victory to the Fairview Neighborhood Association (FNA), which opposed the development.

A month after holding more than three hours of public comment, the Flathead County planning board took up discussion of a proposed preliminary plat for a 114-acre development bordered by Columbia Falls Stage Road and Kingfisher Lane east of Kalispell. The development was proposed by Betty Trueblood and Unique Realty Developer Inc. with technical assistance by TD&H Engineering, and would include 77 lots served by shared wells and individual septic systems.

At the Sept. 9 meeting, the board heard several hours of public input and presentations by the applicant, along with opposition from the FNA to the development, before ending the meeting prior to board discussion.

On Oct. 14, members of the planning board praised the work completed by the planning consultants for both groups, but held concerns over the completeness of the application.

Specific parts of the documents, including wells omitted from the plat map and details concerning a well isolation zone that may be in violation of state law, were brought up as problematic, despite the county planning director considering the possibility of waiving certain requirements in the application.

Board member Dean Sirecek compared the proposed development to an 80-acre Midwestern township map that was common in the late 1800s.

“Basically a small town is being proposed without common facilities as far as water or septic,” Sirecek said. “I think that’s somewhat problematic.”

It was also brought up that the subdivision is proposed on “prime farmland,” and even though the property is small and hasn’t been farmed for a year, consideration should be taken before allowing development of “some of the best soil in the nation.”

Board member Greg Stevens emphasized that he was basing his recommendation on the deficiencies in the application.

“That does not necessarily mean that if those deficiencies are corrected that I will vote for this subdivision if it’s resubmitted,” Stevens said. “There are some other issues there, and I just want the applicants to be aware of the fact.”

The planning board does not have executive power to approve or deny proposed developments, and can only forward a positive or negative recommendation to the Flathead County Commission for a final decision.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.