County Planning Board to Consider Bigfork Development at September Meeting

The board postponed consideration of a 125-unit residential subdivision in Bigfork in light of new information with “alternative findings” from community groups

By Denali Sagner
Bigfork Harbor on May 21, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead County Planning Board on Aug. 9 voted to table the consideration of a 125-unit residential subdivision in Bigfork until its September meeting, citing the existence of new information that the eight-person board needs additional time to consider before offering a recommendation on the project. 

If approved, the Northshore Woods subdivision — a proposal of engineering firm WGM Group and Wyoming-based developer Longbow Land Partners, LLC — would create 125 single-family homes on 105 acres of land between Bigfork Stage Road and Montana Highway 35. 

The proposed subdivision was met with controversy at numerous junctures in the county’s approval process, as community groups and Bigfork residents gathered in large numbers at multiple public meetings to protest a development they say will fundamentally alter the character of the village and overwhelm local infrastructure. Representatives from the developers have called the project a solution to the Flathead Valley’s dire affordable housing crisis, and one that fits within the guidelines of the county’s planning and zoning regulations. 

The county planning board at the Aug. 9 meeting was set to hold public hearings on three separate proposals submitted by the developers: a zone change request, a planned unit development (PUD) proposal, and the preliminary plat for the first phase of the subdivision, which would involve the construction of 51 single-family homes.

The Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee (BLUAC), a seven-member local land use committee that advises the planning board and county commissioners on developments in Bigfork, recommended denial of the three requests by the developers earlier this month. Six of the seven BLUAC members voted to deny recommendation based on public safety, traffic, infrastructure and neighborhood character concerns.  

“I just can’t see adding so much more danger to our community by having that development go forward,” BLUAC member Shelley Gonzales told the Beacon earlier this month. 

Jeff Larsen, a member of the Flathead County Planning Board, said that the board “got some information at the meeting” that he wanted the planning board, county staff and developers to have more time to consider, including a letter from Mayre Flowers, executive director of local nonprofit Citizens for a Better Flathead, that contained “alternative findings.”

The planning board is set to meet on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. in the second floor conference room of the Flathead County South Campus Building, 40 11th St. West, Suite 200 in Kalispell. 

After the planning board votes on whether or not to recommend approval of Northshore Woods, the proposal will go to the Flathead County commissioners for final approval.