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Board of Adjustment approves youth rec facility without traffic study

| June 12, 2024 12:00 AM

Paul Henion spoke to the Flathead County Board of Adjustment during their June 4 meeting, rebutting a condition set by the Bigfork Land Advisory and Use Commission that would require he conduct a traffic survey at the intersection of his private road easement and Highway 83 in order to build a youth recreation facility on his property outside of Bigfork. 

“I do not believe this burdensome task should be attached to my property and tabling my application. Even at full capacity in the parking lot for an 8-hour period, the [average daily traffic] numbers do not trigger the threshold to require one,” Henion explained. 

Henion's application for a conditional use permit on his SAG-5 Suburban Agricultural land would allow him to build a 150 by 72-foot indoor youth sports training facility, serving volleyball, basketball, soccer and baseball players. It would be run on an hourly reservation basis with parking for 27 cars in the main lot, 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. during the school year and starting at 8 a.m. in the summer. 

BLUAC added the condition to Henion’s application after concerns arose regarding additional traffic on the already heavily-travelled road. The Board of Adjustment recently accepted BLUAC’s request to table Bigfork Hotel Group’s proposed hotel in the same area until a traffic survey could be conducted. The hope was that public pressure could sway Montana Department of Transportation to update the highway. 

“The traffic impact studies are helpful, but they will not change the available funding or high priority of other projects,” said Henion, who also lives on the property off Highway 83. “Unfortunately, expanding this half-mile of highway is not a current project.”

BOA member Tom Davis noted that due to the project’s target audience of young drivers, there could be some additional concern regarding traffic accidents at the facility. However, the board ultimately determined that the facility’s operation would largely take place in the off-season due to its indoor services, limiting the conflicts with tourism traffic. 

The board approved Henion’s application without BLUAC’s recommended condition unanimously. 

The BOA also saw an application for a conditional use permit from Maddy Snipes and Mitch Jones, requesting their SAG-5 property off Ramsfield Road be allowed to construct a quilting retreat. The proposed facility would be a 6,000 square foot community building, designed 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.

The BOA approved a condition from BLUAC requiring the facility obtain proper food service licensing as applicable and added that they also obtain a public accommodation license. A recommended condition to address the concerns of Bigfork Water and Sewer District – a request made to install any new septic systems as far away from the public water supply as possible – was deemed redundant. 

A variance allowing Jennifer Nason to construct her home ten feet off of Blenn Street rather than 20 in order to avoid conflicts with existing sewer lines was also approved.