Planning Board to Reconsider Somers Subdivision Next Month

The Steamboat Landing project seeks to bring 252 housing units to Somers. The Flathead County Planning Board in March tabled consideration of the subdivision following a request by the developer.

By Denali Sagner
Site of the proposed Steamboat Landing subdivision in Somers on April 12, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead County Planning Board will vote on whether or not to recommend approval of a 252-unit subdivision in Somers next month after developers requested to table consideration of the project at a March 13 meeting.

Developers of the Steamboat Landing subdivision seek to build 180 single-family residences and 5 condominiums on 63 acres of land in Somers. If approved, the subdivision will be located between Somers Road and School Addition Road, next to Somers Middle School.

The project is expected to produce up to 2,226 new daily vehicle trips in the area, according to a March 2024 traffic impact study commissioned by the developers. Developers also predict that the subdivision will bring in 140 new children to be served by the Somers-Lakeside School District.  

Nearly 30 individuals at a March 13 hearing before the planning board spoke in opposition to the project, citing concerns over traffic, environmental impacts, wildlife habitat and water and sewer issues.

“In addition to the water quality issues, we also have major concerns of how this subdivision will impact the current community of Somers. We do not have the infrastructure in place to support this planned development,” Jennifer Tipton of the North Shore Water Alliance said, citing concerns over the capacity of the area’s schools, emergency services and water treatment facilities.

Somers resident Leslie West said, “due to the lack of zoning in Somers, the individuals that are planning and proposing this extremely dense subdivision are taking an unsafe, unethical and immoral approach to rake in as much money as possible, and the Somers community be damned.”

Six individuals spoke in favor of the proposal, citing a need for affordable housing in the area.

Somers resident Chance Barrett said that he was one of the first individuals to own a home in a new subdivision on Klondyke Loop. The home, Barrett said, was an affordable stepping-stone for his family as they built a life in the valley.

“I don’t want to deny others the opportunity I had 20-plus years ago when I was able to get into an 1,100 square-foot home that was great for my wife and I and our family to start out,” he said. “I’d ask you to consider, please, supporting this to give others like myself, born and raised in Montana, the opportunity to get into homes.”

Following an influx of pandemic-era migrants to the Flathead Valley, housing costs have soared, displacing longtime residents and raising concerns over the availability of affordable housing.

The median sales price for a home in Flathead County reached $560,260 in December 2023, compared to $633,250 in December 2021. Before the pandemic, in January 2020, the median home sold for $316,250.

The average market-rate monthly rent in Flathead County in November 2023 was $2,151, according to the Zillow Observed Rent Index (ZORI).

Barrett, who sits on a strategic planning board at Somers Middle School, added that the school district has been unable to recruit teachers given the high cost of living.

Dom Goble, technical representative from engineering firm Morrison-Maierle, told the planning board that the developers have worked with numerous agencies to mitigate the concerns raised during public comment.

“We’re really basing all of our designs off of regulations that are given by the county and the state,” Goble said.

According to a Feb. 28 report by Flathead County Planning and Zoning Department staff, the subdivision “appears to generally comply with the subdivision review criteria and design standards.” County staff recommended that the developer meet a number of conditions, such as working with the Evergreen Fire District to comply with fire suppression and access requirements, re-vegetate areas disturbed during development and establish a mail delivery site.

Following more than three hours of presentations from the developers, public comment and board discussion, planning board member Michael Kopitzke made a motion to send a negative recommendation to the county commissioners. The motion was seconded by Kevin Lake.

After discussion among the board members and representatives from the developer, representatives from the developer requested the application be tabled for one month. A motion to table the proposal was approved in a 7-1 vote.

While the planning board was expected to take up the matter on April 10, it will instead appear on the agenda at the board’s May meeting.

A representative from the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Department told the Beacon that the developers submitted a new traffic impact study that addresses concerns raised by the public and recommends construction of a traffic light. There will be a public hearing solely regarding the new traffic study. 

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this story cited a traffic study conducted by developers in 2023. This story has been updated to include data from a March 2024 traffic study.