Land use committee recommends denial of zone change

| March 11, 2020 1:00 AM

The Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee voted unanimously to recommend denial of a zone change amendment requested by JJN Holdings, owned by Bigfork electrician Ryan Nelson, to re-zone his 5.884-acre property from SAG-5, suburban agriculture to I-1, light industrial, during their Feb. 27 meeting. Nelson explained that he was requesting the change so he could construct a shop for his business that would house a van and other supplies. During the winter months, UPS is often unable to deliver to his current residence so the Nelson’s sought a location that was easier to access.

He told the committee he was also planning to zone a portion of his land containing a home to residential after the I-1 was granted, since he was advised that current regulations wouldn’t allow him to complete both zone changes simultaneously.

Committee members were largely supportive of his intentions for the property, but were concerned that the light industrial zoning Nelson was requesting wasn’t the best fit longterm. However, Nelson noted that directly adjacent to his land, was property that was also designated I-1. He said he was advised to apply for the I-1 instead of another type of zoning due to the proximity of another I-1 zoned property.

“Being that it’s right next door to the rental yard, I figured the zoning change would be applicable once we purchased it,” Nelson told BLUAC.

The I-1 zoning would also permit Nelson to break up his property into more than two dozen lots, which drew concern from BLUAC members.

Committee member Lou McGuire said she wasn’t worried about Nelson’s plans for the land, which didn’t include creating multiple parcels, but rather what future owners might do.

“This particular application doesn’t bother me … but I think we get sucked into a system of approving things because of the adjacency of a similar zoning. It’s a creep,” McGuire said. “We didn’t necessarily approve the adjacent zoning under the current neighborhood plan. And the current neighborhood plan wouldn’t approve the zoning if all else were equal.”

Committee member Chany Ockert suggested B-3 zoning as an alternative, noting that it would also fit what Nelson was hoping to do with his land.

“When we do a zone change, we can’t put conditions on it, so if you were going to turn around and sell the property, the next person could, with the I-1, could then turn it into 26 additional lots,” Ockert said. “I want the applicant to be able to do what he wants to do in terms of the office and I know that there’s just not a lot of space in Bigfork to do what he wants to do … My concern is the other surrounding properties and what happens if we do this zone change …. [and the] precedence set for the others.”

Although the committee recommended denial, BLUAC doesn’t have the final say — their recommendations, good or bad, are forwarded to the county planning board and county commissioners for consideration. The Flathead County Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning amendment at 6 p.m., March 11 in the second floor conference room of the South Campus building at 40 11th St. W in Kalispell. The county commissioners will also hold a public hearing on April 21. Prior to that hearing, documents will be available for public inspection at the Office of the Board of Commissioners, located at 800 S. Main St., Kalispell. ■