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Kalispell council OKs development projects in virtual meeting

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | August 8, 2020 1:00 AM

The Kalispell City Council held its first meeting of the month via Zoom video conference Tuesday night after the City Council chambers were inundated by unmasked protesters Monday evening.

The regularly scheduled Monday meeting ended abruptly after the Pledge of Allegiance when council member Chad Graham proposed moving to a virtual format for the safety of the council members, city staff and members of the public.

“As a council and a municipality, we have to go through and follow the governor’s directive on this,” Graham said as opponents of face covering requirements voiced their displeasure.

Despite some outcry from the maskless attendees and a lone vote against the venue change from Councilor Sid Daoud, the council rescheduled the meeting for Tuesday night using Zoom video conference.

At the virtual meeting, the council approved three development requests following considerable discussion.

The first was a conditional-use permit application for Colton Lee Communities, a proposed 96-unit project at 216 Hutton Ranch Road. The multi-family residential project would consist of four buildings and additional facilities such as a parking lot, storm facilities and recreational amenities.

The council discussed parking for the development, which is currently expected to exceed zoning regulations, and pedestrian connectivity to the nearby commercial centers.

There have not been any public comments about the request, and Senior Planner P.J. Sorenson said the developer hopes to start construction this year.

The request was unanimously approved.

The council also approved a request for a planned-unit development and preliminary plat at 430 Stillwater Road for a plan to turn the former agricultural site into a mixture of single-family and multi-family lots with commercial space, parks and clubhouses.

The units — including 83 single-family lots and 192 multi-family units—would initially be rental properties, but the plat would allow the owner to sell them if they choose to.

The council discussed a few deviations requested by the developer from the city’s standard zoning and subdivision regulations — such as the size of driveway flares and lots — and the request was then unanimously approved.

The final development proposal on the table Tuesday was a request for final plat and subdivision improvement agreement approval of Kalispell North Town Center, Phase 3 in North Kalispell, a 3.62-acre property that would encompass 16 commercial lots and a common area.

There have been no public comments and the request was unanimously approved.

In other city business, the council approved a new process for setting city speed limits. The previous system, which had been in place since 1947, required the police chief and the city council to set new speed limits in the city. The new approach would bypass these entities and instead base speed limits on traffic studies, as per the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices adopted by the Montana Department of Transportation.

Council member Sid Daoud voiced concern about giving the jurisdiction over speed limits away from the local government and into the hands of “bureaucrats,” but the motion was nonetheless approved with Daoud and council member Chad Graham opposed.

The final agenda item was the appointment of Gabe Mariman and Jon Fetveit to the Kalispell Business Improvement District Board of Directors, since two directors recently resigned from their positions. The appointments were unanimously approved.

At the end of the meeting, the council discussed the best format for the next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 17.

Various council members and City Manager Doug Russell weighed different approaches to keeping meeting participants safe while allowing members of the public to be involved in the meeting process. They eventually decided to hold the next meeting in-person in the council chambers.

“Hopefully we have a respectful situation where we get compliance and we can conduct business in the public and the public has the opportunity to speak at the open meeting,” Russell said.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at (406)-758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.