Zoning change on the shore of Flathead Lake meets opposition | New


Lake County Commissioners, top center, listen to opponents and supporters of a zoning change along the shore of Flathead Lake.

Char-Koosta News

POLSON – On Tuesday, May 18, Lake County Commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed zoning change for Subdistrict C of the Upper West Shore, near Rollins. Two of the three commissioners approved the proposed change, and the amendment is now open for a 30-day comment period to residents living in the area.

The proposed zoning change would allow applicants Torsten and Jessica Wedel to construct a business park along the western shore of Flathead Lake. The Wedels say the zoning change to build an outdoor adventure park will bring new business and boost the region’s economy. The proposed park would offer activities such as ziplining, ax throwing, nature viewing areas, etc. They claim the activities would not create any shows.

The Wedel project elicited negative reactions from surrounding landowners in and from surrounding areas.

The Lake County Planning Board unanimously recommended denying the zoning change as there are no services in the area and the area is in a Level 1 area that requires the greatest protection required by the Department. of Montana’s fisheries, wildlife and parks. Another concern is that the part of the highway that crosses this area is winding and there is already a high volume of wildlife accidents.

A lawyer, speaking on behalf of the Wedels, disagreed and said his clients did not think they would disrespect or spoil the area and would like Commissioners to consider the benefits of leisure activities would bring residents and visitors.

The project the Wedels want to build is funded by private investment and the applicants say the project is much less frightening for residents than they think. They also disagreed with the conclusions of the planning council and asked the commissioners to remove certain biases. They believe the attraction would serve the children and the community in and around Polson.

Commissioners asked the plaintiffs if they knew what area the property was in before buying. Jessica Wedel said the real estate agent mistakenly told them he was open to business development. They weren’t aware of the zoning requirements and said they felt it was in a commercial use area.

Commissioner Bill Barron read some comments sent to Lake County Commissioners opposing the amendment. Comments included: destruction of the nature of the area; negative effect on wildlife; light pollution; effect on property values; increasing traffic jams and safety problems; water quality affected; interfere with the view from Flathead Lake; development will open the door to commercial development; environmental impact on natural resources; school bus safety issues; 70 mph speed zone; the personal enrichment of the Wedels; increase the problems of access to the shores of the lake; effect on bald eagle nesting; no clear definition of use; clearcutting of the forest; and it will benefit Flathead County, not Lake County.

The Commissioners sought comments from developers requesting changes to zoning requirements. One person at the meeting said he was for property rights and that the Wedels should be able to do whatever they want with their property. A trader in the area, via Zoom, said he was in favor but has since changed his mind due to opposition from residents and the local community. They said that at the end of the day, they were the ones they were serving and they wanted to see more growth in the region, but not when everyone in the region is against it.

The 1.5-hour public comment period allowed area residents to have their say on the proposed change. Most were strongly against the proposed change and development of the area for commercial purposes. Over 100 people have connected through Zoom to provide public comments.

Lake County Commissioners Gale Decker and Dave Stipe approved the resolution, with Bill Barron opposed, but reminded Wedels and landowners that the resolution was not a “done deal.” The owners of the zone have 30 days to comment on the amendment.

A Change.org petition has more than 34,000 signatures opposing the proposed zoning change, as does the Upper West Shore Alliance.


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