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Community council good for Lakeside

by Daily Inter Lake
| May 7, 2023 12:00 AM

Following a seven-year hiatus, the Lakeside Community Council is back.

Spurred on by the development of a controversial tourist attraction set to open this summer just north of Lakeside, residents in the unincorporated town on the west shore of Flathead Lake have decided it’s time to have a seat at the table for discussions about land-use zoning — or more accurately, the lack thereof.

In Tuesday’s election, voters chose six residents to sit on the council. A seventh member will be appointed by the Flathead County commissioners.

The council will act only in an advisory capacity — it cannot impose taxes or other mandates. Mostly, the group will work with the county planning department to review proposals affecting development in the Lakeside area and recommend land-use policy.

A previous iteration of the council disbanded in 2016. Its revival couldn’t come at a more crucial time for the booming area that attracts thousands of tourists each summer. 2020 Census data shows Lakeside’s population growing by about 33% over the last decade to 2,245 people, making it the sixth-largest population center in Flathead County.

New residents are attracted to the community for good reasons — a picturesque setting and laid-back vibe, top-notch restaurants, a ski resort out the back door and easy public access to the valley’s crown jewel of Flathead Lake. What’s not to like?

But alongside all those attractive amenities comes inevitable growth. Sufficient guidelines must be put in place to steer new development in a way that preserves the community’s character.

The council’s first priority is to zone some of the land around the town’s residential areas. It will be a difficult task to balance the desire for personal property rights with common-sense guidelines that benefit the whole — but it’s a worthy endeavor that must be done.

With a unified voice in front of the commission and protective land-use plans in place, the scenic town will be less exposed to more of the exact type of development it is fighting against today.