Tuesday, June 25, 2024

BLUAC requests traffic study on Highway 83 before allowing youth rec facility

Hagadone News Network | June 5, 2024 12:00 AM

The Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee saw a request from Paul Henion for a conditional use permit allowing for a recreational facility at his property off of Highway 83 during their May 30 meeting.

Henion intended to build a 150 by 72-foot indoor youth sports training facility on his property, which is zoned SAG-5, Suburban Agricultural. Access to Highway 83 would come from an existing private road easement, which would be widened to 20 feet to accommodate two-way traffic. The site plan includes turf training and a court that could accommodate basketball, volleyball, baseball and futsall, an indoor-modified form of soccer. It would be run on an hourly reservation basis, with parking for up to 27 cars. The business would run 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. during the school year. Summer hours could begin earlier in the day at 8 a.m. The facility is not intended for large audiences or tournament play, would not have a weight training area, and would focus on sports training specifically. 

“There’s only like three or four months that we get outdoor training in the area,” said Henion, who has coached baseball for years. “For instance, the baseball team this year, the high school team, they lost Bear Creek and weren’t able to utilize that field and I believe those kids maybe got a handful of times they got to even take batting practice before the first game.”

Self-proclaimed soccer mom Kristen Kline shared her support for the development, sharing the struggle to find space to play in the winter. When Bigfork plays teams from the southern part of the state, they are often weeks behind on practice in comparison. 

Neighbor Laura Perry spoke against the facility due to noise and traffic concerns. 

“[Highway 83] is fantastically underimproved for all the development that’s going in there,” she said. 

Henion responded to noise concerns with assertions that activity would be limited to indoors, and end by 8:30 p.m. The board, however, ultimately agreed with Perry on the potential traffic safety hazards the development could induce. 

“Last month we looked at the motel close by and recommended not approving that, and the county ended up tabling it for them to do a traffic study… This is 27 parking spots, so I would assume that at full capacity you would have 27 cars there. And then you’re rotating every hour or so. It probably could generate more traffic than a motel,” vice president of the board Jerry Sorensen said. 

Board member Chany Ockert reminded the board of a 2017-2018 study that listed affordable youth facilities as the eight most-requested priority for the Bigfork community. 

“I’ve undergone a little bit of a change in terms of my view of traffic issues, and that is that infrastructure cannot proceed development. Before the infrastructure can be built, we have to know what the properties are going to be used for,” Ockert said. 

She pointed to a county-requested traffic study in Lakeside and expressed hope that similar changes could come to Bigfork.  However, without confirmation that changes to Highway 83 would be coming any time soon, and to stick with their previous determination on the hotel traffic study, the board ultimately decided that Henion must conduct a traffic study at the intersection of the easement access and Highway 83 and present it to MDT prior to pursuing an updated approach permit from MDT. With that condition met, the board recommended approval from the Board of Adjustments. 

In light of the traffic study issue, Ockert asked if requiring applicants to pay for traffic studies would ultimately have any effect on MDT’s decision to improve Highway 83. 

“I think it can happen with public pressure, it won’t happen any other way,” Sorensen replied. 

The board also saw a request for a conditional use permit by Maddy Snipes and Mitch Jones for a quilting retreat on Ramsfield Road. Plans for the 80-acre SAG-5 property include a 6,000 square foot community building to accommodate 32 quilters for up to five days at a time. The building would have a sewing area, kitchen facility, dining area and sleeping quarters. Access would require widening of the existing driveway on Ramsfield Road to 20 feet. 

The permit would tie the property’s use to a quilting retreat, and would not allow rooms to be individually rented as a short-term rental. A new septic tank would be required, and Bigfork Water and Sewer District requested the tank be placed as far away and down slope from the nearby community water supply as possible. 

The board endorsed the application with the conditions that Water and Sewer’s concerns be addressed and the owners obtain food service licensing as applicable. 

The board approved a variance allowing for a ten-foot front yard setback facing Blenn Street on Jennifer Nason’s property at the corner of Blenn and Electric Avenue. A 20-foot setback is usually required, but due to development before zoning, a sewer line cutting across the property would not allow Nason’s house to feasibly be built as required. The property owners planned with Water and Sewer to reroute the sewer line cutting across the property to a neighboring house and allow Nason’s house to use the exiting sewer line. A 20-foot setback will be maintained on Electric Avenue for fire hydrant access. 

The board reappointed all officers and members at large, and noted that they are in need of a reporting secretary. 

Applications seen by BLUAC during their May 30 meeting will be revisited by the Flathead County Board of Adjustments June 4 after presstime.