Board approves controversial permit

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Even though discussion of a controversial motocross track was postponed at Tuesday’s Flathead County Board of Adjustment meeting, there still was plenty of division in the room.

Cindy Marvin requested postponement of consideration of the motocross track to try to incorporate recommendations from the West Valley Land Use Advisory Committee, county planner Alex Hogle said.

In a separate matter, the board voted 3-2 in favor of a family hardship dwelling at 161 West Valley Acres.

The item drew considerable board discussion and comments from the public, most of whom were against the addition of a modular home to the property.

A conditional use permit to allow the modular home was requested by Jeannine Zollinger, 78, so that she could move out of the house occupied by her daughter, son-in-law and four teens, according to Belinda Erickson, Zollinger’s daughter.

Erickson runs a dog kennel on the property and watches two small children, she said.

James Kola objected in part due to a greenhouse where marijuana allegedly is grown on the property.

Ed Myers also was against the permit and mentioned a Web site that advertises marijuana.

A county planner said the county hadn’t yet looked into complaints about violations for a kennel and greenhouse.

Erickson said the land is zoned for agricultural use so a greenhouse is allowed. She said the kennel consists entirely of Labrador retrievers. She said she originally obtained some kind of permit from the county, but wasn’t sure what it was called.

Board member Gary Krueger suggested it might be a permit for an animal shelter.

Krueger ended up voting against the approval on the basis that the West Valley Neighborhood Plan hasn’t been updated in some 15 years and is not in compliance with the county growth policy passed in 1999. A conditional use permit for a family hardship dwelling is not possible using the old neighborhood plan, he said.

Also voting against approval was Gina Klempel, while Scott Hollinger, Mark Hash and Craig Wagner voted yes.

Separately, the board approved a conditional use permit for Northern Lights Saloon and Cafe to operate as a tavern in Polebridge.

Owners John and Joyce O’Hara and Bob and Kathy Reiswig have improved the property, John O’Hara said. He noted that “the county and the state were forced to shut the place down” because the previous owner didn’t cooperate.

“The conditions we found — from an administrative standpoint — were horrific,” he said. “We are professionals. We know how to run a business.”

Objection to the permit was raised by Greg Puckett, who owns Home Ranch Bottoms store and tavern in the Polebridge area. Puckett said a previous owner expanded the business in 1987 without compliance with county code. Puckett said the new owners shouldn’t be able to move forward without addressing a stage that was built outside the saloon.

In other action, the board  approved:

• A zoning variance for Nodding Onion LLC so that owners Zac and Corky Andrews don’t have to pave their parking lot at 980 Demersville Road due, in part, because there already is a drainage remedy in place.

• A conditional use permit for Whistling Andy Inc. at 8541 Montana 35 in Bigfork. The business will be a distillery and liquor tasting room where up to one liter of alcohol can be sold and 2 ounces of liquor served on the premises. Construction will begin in three weeks with an opening in October, owner Michael Marchetti said.

• A conditional use permit for Robert and Lois Krause to remove four to five inches of topsoil from their gravel business at 320 Coverdell Road so they can, according to Lois Krause, “supplement their Social Security.”


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