In the last 20 years, Ravalli County has had larger proposed subdivisions than the 137-lot Burnt Fork Estates eyed for the eastern edge of Stevensville.
None survived the process or the courts.
“In the county, you would probably have to go back to the apple orchard time to find something of that size,” said Ravalli County Planning Department Administrator Terry Nelson. “I can’t think of any that have gone through the entire process and been completed.”
Dwight and Ralph Hooley of Corvallis submitted their proposal in January to subdivide 57.68 acres of pasture into 78 single-family lots, 43 multiple-family lots and 16 light commercial lots. The subdivision is bordered by Logan Road to the east, Middle Burnt Fork Road on the south and the Creekside Meadows subdivision on the north.
The land is located inside the boundaries of the Town of Stevensville.
The proposal calls for developing the land in phases starting in 2022 and ending 2030.
Before that happens, the public will have its chance to weigh in at meetings before both Stevensville’s Planning and Zoning Committee and Town Council.
That process got underway Thursday night — albeit without public input — when the Planning and Zoning Committee held its first public meeting via Zoom on the internet. Because the town received some changes to the proposal last week, the board decided to wait to begin its deliberations, and some technical issues may have hampered public comment.
People interested in having their say will be able to do so in person at the next meeting scheduled for Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. The tentative plan is to hold the meeting at the Stevensville School, which would allow for the public to attend if they agreed to social distancing and to wear masks for protection against the coronavirus.
Ravalli County Commissioner and vice-chair of the Stevensville Planning and Zoning Committee Greg Chilcott said Friday he expects the board will end up holding “multiple meetings” to ensure the public has an opportunity to offer input.
Chilcott said the commission spent more than 30 hours taking public comment on the proposed 639-home Legacy Ranch Subdivision north of Stevensville. The commission’s decision to approve that subdivision was overturned in 2015 following a Bitterrooters for Planning lawsuit.
“If it’s up to me, I’ll take all the public comment that comes forward,” Chilcott said.
Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey said the three public hearings the town council had scheduled in September have been postponed.
“It’s very possible we may not see a public hearing before the town council until mid-to-late October or maybe even into November,” Dewey said.
The Burnt Fork Estate project’s consultant, John Kellogg of PCI Professional Consultants, is also a member of the town’s planning and zoning Board. Kellogg recused himself from serving on the board during deliberations on the proposed subdivision.
“I do think it was a good decision by the board to allow for some more time to make sure that public input is heard,” Kellogg said. “We want to know what the public has to say.”
Kellogg said PCI provided the town with additional information last week that updated the proposed subdivision’s transportation plan, removed a proposed road through school property and added some parkland.
“They will need some time to look that over and revise their staff report,” Kellogg said.
When the Creekside Subdivision was approved in 2003, Kellogg said the town council approved a plan for five phases of development that included the parcel now under consideration. The original owner died and the project ceased following the downturn in the housing market.
The new project, Kellogg said is different from the original, including a space set aside for commercial construction on the southern end of the development. One of those commercial lots is expected to be used for a satellite fire hall.
“We know this is a major addition to the town,” Kellogg said. “We wanted to make sure that it was designed right and will contribute to the value of the property and to Creekside by continuing the type of neighborhood that will be friendly to the residents of Creekside.”
But many of the residents of the 60-lot Creekside Subdivision are not happy with the proposal they say will bring lots of traffic through their development, potentially change the level of groundwater under their homes and could raise their taxes by forcing the town to expand water and wastewater facilities.
Jim Kalkofen and Marilyn Wolff said people are worried the project is being fast-tracked. Both said they had trouble finding Thursday night’s internet meeting or getting through to offer a comment.
“That was a total mess for a lot of people,” Wolff said. “I tried to call, but I couldn’t get through.”
Both were concerned about the developer’s plans to use three roads in their development as access points to the new subdivision, which they say would greatly increase the traffic on Creekside Drive, the main road into their neighborhood.
The covenants of the proposed subdivision aren’t as stringent as those in Creekside, Wolff said. They allow for two-story homes and no limits on rooflines.
“They like to paint this an extension to Creekside,” she said. “It isn’t that at all.”
Both said that before anything happens with the new development, the town needs to address the issue of its water rights. The town is working with the state to update and broaden its “place of use” for municipal water. At this point, the proposed development is currently outside that “place of use” designation.
“Until that issue is settled, they shouldn’t continue with the discussion of creating this new subdivision,” Kalkofen said.
“The application should be shelved until the water rights are settled,” Wolff agreed.
“We’re not opposed to development as a group,” Kalkofen said. “We’re just not in favor of this high-density development. It could be modified. This kind of density will create issues with traffic and other things. It’s just too many families in too little space.”
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