Planning process keeps level playing field

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As development keeps on rolling in the Flathead Valley, those who are concerned about what’s happening in the corridor leading to Glacier National Park may want to tune into a project on Lake Five that aims to create a resort with guest cabins.

The Flathead County Planning Board is poised to hold a public hearing on the proposed Whistlestop Retreat project at its Jan. 8 meeting. Dr. Susie Dietz of Anchorage, Alaska, has requested a major land-use permit to build two houses, 10 rental cabins, an entertainment structure, two pavilions, two non-rental RV spaces and other structures, including a shop on about 24 acres off Grizzly Spur Road. Because it’s a proposed major land use, the Middle Canyon Land Use Advisory Committee considered the application and voted to recommend denial of the project, based on access and septic issues, wildlife impacts, nearby wetlands and the historic nature of the area.

After construction began prematurely last summer and neighbors complained, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued a cease and desist order based on septic and water system issues. According to a recent Hungry Horse News article, the resort already has a Facebook page and is advertising the destination, pending permit approval.

Dietz told the Hungry Horse News she’s planning to retire to West Glacier and wants to supplement her income with seasonal nightly vacation rentals. That’s all well and good, but it seems this property owner jumped the gun in her development pursuit.

The planning process Flathead County has for making sure all developers follow rules and regulations is vitally important for the orderly growth of our scenic areas. It puts everyone on the same playing field.

ANOTHER PROPOSAL locals should tune in for is the expansive Frozen Moose forest management project in the North Fork that aims to reduce fuel densities and improve forest health.

A commercial timber harvest is planned for 3,552 acres, while thinning and prescribed burning is planned for 4,630 acres in the work area that extends to the Canadian border to the north and to the North Fork of the Flathead River to the east.

Forest officials point out that the dense forest in this area is ripe for a dangerous, fast-moving wildfire. The fuels reduction work proposed would make the area more resilient to wildfire and provide for firefighter access and safety should a fire occur.

We suspect this project will receive a majority share of public support, given its proximity to Glacier National Park and the increasing number of folks who call the far reaches of the North Fork home. The public has until Jan. 17 to comment. If you support sensible forest management, let your voice be heard.

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