County Commissioners Approve Controversial Baker 80 Subdivision

Development has been ongoing source of contention centered around public access interpretations

By Micah Drew
The historic Flathead County Courthouse building on Main Street in downtown Kalispell. Beacon File Photo

The Flathead County Commission at its Feb. 2 meeting approved the preliminary plat for the Baker 80 subdivision, which will create 16 lots on 80 acres north of KM Ranch Road and west of U.S. Highway 93.

The subdivision was a point of contention at two planning board meetings on Sept. 9 and Jan. 13, as well as a previous commission meeting in October, due to differing interpretations over public access easements.

“I know [the planning board] had a tough go with two meetings and they work really hard for us — I do appreciate them very much,” Commissioner Pam Holmquist said, adding that she was still unsure if it was under the county’s jurisdiction to make a ruling over appropriate access. “The documents and information we’ve been receiving have been conflicting with each other … It’s probably going to end up being a judge’s call.”

In preliminary plat documents, primary access to the Baker 80 subdivision will be via Whitefish Village Drive and Prairie View Road to the north of the property. Whitefish Village Drive is a privately maintained but public road with a 60-foot right-of-way in the adjacent Whitefish Hills Village subdivision.

Alternative access to the Baker 80 property is possible via Prairie View Road south to KM Ranch Road, but while a county easement exists there, the road is not fully constructed and would require nearly 3,000 feet of new construction as opposed to roughly 100 feet if Whitefish Village Drive is utilized.

Several hours of public comment, and hundreds of additional written opinions, during both planning board meetings centered around the utilization of roads in the Whitefish Hills Village subdivision, with homeowners primarily in opposition.

“I think both these developments are basically the same,” Commissioner Brad Abell said, adding that he hoped to keep the decision out of the judicial system. “They’re like people, they’re living there, I think they can coexist.”

The commissioners amended several findings of facts on the preliminary plat document, most centered around cost-sharing agreements to pay for road maintenance, before ultimately voting unanimously to approve the development going forward.

“We may not make anyone happy in this, but we will have made some progress,” Commissioner Randy Brodehl said. “My hope is we’ve given the developers and property owners the tools they need to put together a final solution.”

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