County board to consider major lakeshore variance

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A public hearing to consider a request for a major variance to Flathead County lake and lakeshore protection regulations headlines a packed agenda for the Flathead County Planning Board’s meeting Wednesday, July 10.

The request was submitted by Hafferman Engineering Inc. on behalf of the Silter family in Somers. The property is located south of Somers Road on the north shore of Flathead Lake and falls within the Lakeshore Protection Zone.

The variance would allow for the reapplication of 3,785 cubic yards of gravel fill to an existing “dynamic equilibrium gravel beach,” according to a planning staff report. The fill proposal exceeds the zone’s limits on volume of gravel fill and maximum fill depth and is considered a site that is “subject to strong wave action or currents, is covered predominantly in vegetation and is below average low water,” and thus is not permitted for rock application.

According to the staff report, the variance would “protect the property and restore as much critical wetland habitat as possible” and the applicants feel the land is “valuable wetland that cannot be replaced without the variance.” A comparison of historical aerial imagery shows the property’s shoreline has eroded approximately 4 to 6 feet on average per year over the past 30 years, and according to the application, strong wave action will “continue to erode the subject property resulting in continued loss of land, and wetland.” An evaluation of the application also notes “no reasonable alternatives exist.” Other options such as retaining walls would cut off the direct hydrological connection to the lake, thus destroying the lake-wetland ecosystem.

The Planning Board will also consider one request for preliminary plat approval and three minor zone change requests for properties less than 10 acres in size.

The request for preliminary plat approval, submitted by Ryan Purdy of Eureka, is for a four residential lot subdivision slightly east of Whitefish Stage Road near Kalispell. The property is 20 acres in size and is zoned SAG-5, suburban residential with a 5-acre minimum lot size — a district that “provides and preserves smaller agricultural functions and provides a buffer between urban and unlimited agricultural uses,” according to a staff report.

The Planning Board will forward recommendations for the agenda items to the Flathead County commissioners for final approval.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. July 10 in the second-floor conference room in the South Campus Building, 40 11th St. W. in Kalispell.

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com

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