Flathead County

Planning Board Approves Lake Five Dock, Swim Platform

Critics say new construction at controversial property shouldn’t be approved while litigation is pending

By Micah Drew
Lake Five in West Glacier on May 29, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

At a meeting on April 14 that stretched nearly five hours, the Flathead County Planning Board voted to forward a positive recommendation to the county commission for new construction at a controversial Lake Five property. 

Susan Dietz, owner of the Whistlestop Resort on the west shore of Lake Five, applied for a permit to install a floating dock, a boat lift, a stairway and a swim platform on one of the two parcels that make up her property. 

Dietz purchased the property off Grizzly Spur Road in 2018, and her plans to develop the property has drawn the ire of neighbors and led to litigation with the county and a group called Friends of Lake Five. 

In the ongoing lawsuit, Friends of Lake Five alleges the county erroneously granted a major land-use permit for Dietz to build 10 guest cabins and additional new buildings across the two tracts of land. The Flathead County District Court issued an injunction to halt any work and the county later rescinded the permit.

Two members of the public spoke in opposition to the dock and swim platform permits, arguing the legal actions should prompt the board members to wait before taking action on the permit. 

Planning staff told the board that because the property comprised two tracts of land, and the lawsuit over the major land-use permit only pertained to one tract, the current permit was not subject to the terms of the lawsuit. 

Board member Greg Stevens cut off the testimony of Leon Pinski, whose wife, Jean Pinski, is listed as the president of Friends of Lake Five, after nearly 20 minutes. 

“None of us on this board are attorneys,” Stevens said. “When we start talking and talking and talking and talking and talking about legal maters, there’s nowhere that we have to go. We have no basis on which to make judgments one way or the other.”

“I think the staff report addresses the things that I need to know as to whether the subject property is eligible,” he continued. “No matter who owns it, whether there’s a land-use permit pending, revoked, rescinded, never to be … there doesn’t need to be a land-use permit to have a dock.”

Board member Sandra Nogal expressed some confusion over the application, which specifically asks to be permitted for the T-shaped dock swim platform previously installed without a permit, but those structures are located on the other tract of land on Dietz’s property.

The board voted 4-1 to forward a positive recommendation to the county commission to approve the permits.

The board took action on four other agenda items, while tabling two items until a quorum could be assembled. Board member William Breckenridge recused himself from two items for professional conflicts, resulting in a lack of quorum. 

A positive recommendation was passed along to the county commission for a zone change along .64 acres at 121 Poplar Drive in Kalispell to change from One Family Limited Residential to General Business. 

Along Haskill Basin Road, a 25.99-acre property received a positive recommendation to rezone from AG-20 to AG-10, allowing the property to be further subdivided. 

The last zone change was for a property in Evergreen along Maple Drive to change from Suburban Residential to Residential Apartment.

The board also voted to approve a preliminary plat for Geffery Subdivision, a proposal that would create six residential lots on 12 acres along 71 Creston Trail. 

Planning Director Mark Mussman expressed some indignation at the start of the meeting over the low attendance by board members, which caused two agenda items to proceed without a quorum. He noted that the department had invested $1,500 in recording equipment specifically to allow board members, and the public, to participate remotely. 

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