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Board to assess proposed West Valley concrete and asphalt plant

by COLIN GAISER
Daily Inter Lake | May 3, 2020 11:18 AM

The Flathead County Board of Adjustment will look at modifying a conditional-use permit to allow an applicant to build a concrete and asphalt plant in West Valley during its teleconference meeting on Tuesday, May 5.

The meeting will be held remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will start at 6 p.m. via the WebEx platform.

Rob Koelzer of Schellinger Construction Co. is requesting to modify one of the conditions on the original permit. The condition in question reads “asphalt and concrete batch plant operations are prohibited,” while the applicant wants to modify the condition in order to operate a batch plant.

In a March 16 letter to the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Office, Koelzer requested having the prohibition of asphalt and concrete batch extractions removed from the conditional-use permit. According to the application, asphalt, wash and concrete plants were added to the definition of “gravel extraction” under Flathead County’s zoning regulations in 2010.

The pit’s owner is listed as Section 16 Family Limited Partnership. Linda Tutvedt owns the property, according to information on record with the Flathead County GIS Department.

The property in question is 320 acres located at 3427 Farm to Market Road, just south of the intersection of Farm to Market and Church Drive. It is zoned “WV West Valley,” defined as “a district to promote orderly growth and development in the West Valley area consistent with the community vision statements.”

At the time of the original approval of the conditional-use permit in 2005, there was no definition for “gravel extraction.”

The planning office’s staff report explains “there are other gravel extraction operations in close proximity that have been permitted to include batch plants,” though these operations were issued conditional-use permits after the current amendments allowing batch plants were adopted.

Cory Hill, a West Valley School Board trustee, recently sent out a letter alerting West Valley residents about the planned expansion. Hill alleges residents have not been notified about the attempted change to the conditional-use permit, and the quarantine is leaving residents only able to comment through the mail or telephone — and not during virtual meetings.

“Many West Valley residents feel this meeting might be illegal and being back-doored so we don’t know anything about it, so these permits will go through with no problems,” Hill wrote. “These permits were already denied when the gravel pit was first opened and are now being requested again.”

Hill wrote that residents are concerned about water supply and quality, as the current gravel pit is located near a shallow water aquifer. He also expressed concerns about traffic and noise at the site.

“West Valley School, just to the south of the pit, is already severely congested in the mornings and afternoons with traffic and now there would be all these additional trucks that will be fully loaded amongst the traffic dropping off and picking up their kids,” Hill wrote.

“Let’s not forget about the amount of noise these plants and trucks will add to these neighborhoods. Trucks were told to stay away from the school when the pit was first opened, but they still came down by the school, downshifting and braking as they came into the school zone, disrupting classes that are the closest to the road.”

The staff report finds that during “peak demand,” traffic on Farm to Market Road will increase by approximately 1.5%, or 75 to 100 trips per day. Nearby Church Drive would see a 2% increase in trips, which the planning office calls “minimal.”

The staff report does not see any reason to turn down the applicant’s request as long as certain conditions are met, such as meeting various Montana Department of Environmental Quality regulations.

IN OTHER business, the Board of Adjustment will also look at an application for a conditional-use permit to build a trailer court at 616 Willow Glen Drive.

The owner and applicant, Randal Remington, is seeking to build a trailer court with 13 spaces on 2.35 acres. The location is currently zoned as R-5, or two-family residential.

The Flathead City-County Environmental Health Department objects to the operation of a trailer court at the location. The department commented that all trailer courts must go through a Department of Environmental Quality subdivision review, plan review with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services and must obtain other permits and licenses once the other steps are completed.

To join the meeting via audio, call 1-650-479-3208 and use the event number 281-792-188. Further instructions for commenting will be provided during the meeting.

Public comments can also be sent prior to the meeting to planning.zoning@flathead.mt.gov.

Reporter Colin Gaiser may be reached at cgaiser@dailyinterlake.com.

This story has been corrected to note that Linda Tutvedt is the owner of the property that the Board of Adjustment is considering for a conditional-use permit.