Sunday, May 19, 2024

Build it and they will come

by Julie Rommel
| September 4, 2022 12:00 AM

When a developer seeks to build 268 housing units and 73 resort RV stalls in one of the most beautiful places in Montana, ‘they’ will come. In fact, according to the proposed Montarise Development located at the intersection of U.S. 93 and KM Ranch Road, nearly 850 more residents will come to Flathead Valley – even though its housing will not be affordable, entry-level, or workforce housing.

If you’re already frustrated about the traffic and lack of parking around town, imagine a 16% increase of vehicles traveling U.S. 93 between Whitefish and Kalispell that Montarise will cause. Neighbors surrounding the subdivision would have to deal with a 120% increase on KM Ranch Road, a two-lane winding county road not capable of handling that kind of increased traffic – especially when heavy farm equipment and cattle trucks share our roads. With so many more vehicles, the developer’s proposal calls for a stop light on U.S. 93. Wasn’t the vision for U.S. 93 to be stop light free?

The burst of new Flathead residents is no small matter. On Aug. 31, the Daily Inter Lake quoted Sherriff Heino saying, “…we’ve had huge population growth and now we’re falling even more behind.” While the county increased the Sheriff’s Office budget by 15%, they only gained three deputies, bringing the total to 31 when they need 36. Public safety will erode if our infrastructure doesn’t keep up with the demands of our growing population.

How about the strain on our public schools? Montarise expects to add somewhere between 50 and 90 more school-aged children to our already over-taxed schools. Last year, according to a September Inter Lake article, our high school was at capacity and Muldown Elementary would need extra room in the next three years.What’s more, the school bus dispatcher told me they started the school year without enough bus drivers, forcing them to double up routes and making bus rides longer for kids. Montarise will stretch our schools and buses even more.

Who will pay for the increased law enforcement, road improvements, school buses, classrooms, and stop lights when Montarise’s application includes no statement about paying for them? Taxpayers.

I recognize growth is inevitable, but how much more high-density housing (that’s not affordable) do we want that will attract more people and not house the ones we already have? Do you want to forever change the character and landscape of our rural way of life for greedy developers to come here to make millions of dollars and take their profits back to their communities? In the case of Montarise, the Canadian owner bought the 155.9 acres zoned as SAG-5 in 2021 and they have every right to develop it under that zoning where they could build 31 housing units. I’d say that’s fair.

If you want to preserve our rural slice of Montana, please attend the Sept. 7 Flathead County Planning and Zoning meeting at the Fairgrounds at 6 p.m. and tell the Planning Board that you’re opposed to Montarise and our exploding population.

Julie Rommel is a member of Friends for Responsible Rural Growth. She lives in Whitefish.