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Steamboat Landing subdivision calls for more than 250 units in Somers

by HEIDI DESCH
Hagadone News Network | March 12, 2024 12:00 AM

A proposed subdivision adjacent to Somers Middle School could result in the development of 252 residential units.

The Steamboat Landing project would consist of primarily single-family residential lots, along with condominium lots, on 63.79 acres at 603 Somers Road. A preliminary plat request for the development goes before the county Planning Board on March 13. 

The Planning Board meets at 6 p.m. in the South Campus Building at 40 11th St. W. in Kalispell. Two other public hearings are also on the agenda. 

Recommendations from the board regarding the requests are forwarded to the Flathead County commissioners for final consideration.

A stack of public comments, primarily in opposition to the project, has been submitted to the county, including concerns about increased traffic, impacts to wildlife habitat, impacts to schools and overcrowding. 

Somers Project, LLC and Somers Property, LLC are proposing Steamboat Landing to be developed in five phases — the first phase is estimated to be completed in 2025 and the final phase in 2033. It would include 72 condo units. 

Several parks are planned throughout the subdivision at about 6 acres and 2.51 acres would remain in open space within a wetland area on the property. 

The property is not zoned and contains several outbuildings in the southeastern portion. Access to the lots would be from new internal subdivision roads via Sunnybrook Lane and Somers Road. All lots within the subdivision would be served by Somers Water and Sewer District. 

As part of the preliminary plat a wetland delineation report says that the area contains 2.55 acres of freshwater emergent wetland and thus a 50-foot setback is indicated on the plat. 

A traffic impact study submitted with the plat, shows that the subdivision would generate about 2,200 new daily vehicle trips. However, the study was based on two fewer housing units than is being proposed, according to the county planning staff report. 

The traffic study concludes that the Steamboat Landing development would “increase traffic volumes on the surrounding road network and roadway improvements may be warranted” with the project when combined with the current traffic volume growth in the area. It recommends the developers install separated northbound right- and left-turn lanes to maximize the efficiency of the intersection of Montana 82 and School Addition Road to help mitigate the impacts of the project at that intersection.

The property to the south of the subdivision is owned by BNSF Railway and was the site of the former BNSF tie treatment plant. The area was identified as a Superfund site in 1984 due to the contamination of groundwater and soils from operations to treat wood ties. Treatment of soils and groundwater began in 1994. 

The environmental assessment for the subdivision notes that since the project will be served by Somers Water and Sewer contaminated groundwater is not a concern. 

Letters and emails submitted to the county regarding the subdivision raise a host of issues regarding the project, namely the density that is being proposed. 

Brooke Nash, who lives on Somers Road, says she’s not opposed to growth in the valley but suggests that 1- to 5-acre lots would make more sense. Echoing many other comments she points out the effect of increased traffic on School Addition and Somers Road, along with adding more traffic in the area of the busy Somers Beach State Park. 

“No entire town should be destroyed in the name of densification; it will ruin the quality of life in Somers,” she said. “The traffic and other negative impacts on the community and the other residential units in our neighborhood would be significant.” 

Residing in a nearby subdivision, Misty Murchison questions the schools' ability to accommodate new students, whether police and fire will be able to serve new development and the effect the subdivision could have on wildlife in the area. 

“It is my firm belief that this development is not in the best interest of our town due to the potential strain it would place on our resources and infrastructure,” she said. “This development will devastate our community with the mass influx of residents.” 

The application for the subdivision estimates that it would generate about 140 new children to be served by the Somers Lakeside School District. 

Somers Superintendent Joe Price in an email said there could be 250 students from the new subdivision and that would represent a “significant impact” on the schools as each of the district’s current buildings have room for about 40 more students.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in a letter outlines a number of concerns with the proposal. Neil Anderson, Region 1 acting supervisor, says the project would increase the pedestrian and vehicular traffic along an increasingly congested road accessing FWP’s Somers Beach State Park. He recommends the county work with FWP to develop a minimum of one pedestrian crossing from the subdivision to the park’s entrance and/or trailheads, and develop a bike and pedestrian trail to link the subdivision with the state park and other nearby trails. 

Anderson points out that the southern end of the area contains a pond and wetland that is part of a larger wetland complex that supports nesting and migratory waterfowl. Human disturbance will effectively eliminate nesting opportunities and runoff from residences will “undoubtedly reach and possibly contaminate the remaining wetland.”

“The Flathead Valley is a stopover for a multitude of migratory waterfowl species, which utilize wetlands and agricultural fields during the spring and fall,” he said. “The cumulative impacts of high-density housing developments and the loss of functional wetlands and traditional agricultural lands to development will reduce important habitat for numerous bird species.” 

ALSO ON the agenda are two other public hearings. 

The Reddig Family Trust is requesting a preliminary plat for Glacier Landing, a proposal to create 35 single-family residential lots, eight multi-family units and three commercial lots on 30 acres. The property, which is zoned scenic corridor and contains a residence, is located at 3756 U.S. 2, Kalispell. 

Access to the proposed lots would be from new internal subdvision roads via U.S. 2 East and Birch Grove Road near Columbia Falls. Several parks totaling 4.4 acres are proposed throughout the subdivision. 

The subdivision would be served by Glacier Ranch Public Water and Sewer. 

The Planning Board will consider making amendments to the county growth policy. The amendments update text in the Parks and Recreation and Economics chapters to keep statistical information current and to modernize information regarding the housing market.  

Features Editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or hdesch@dailyinterlake.com.