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Planning board votes against apartments

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | February 17, 2021 7:00 AM

The Columbia Falls City-County planning board last week denied a 36-unit apartment complex planned by developer Toby Gilchrist of Whitefish and landowner Thomas Hyon Su of Washington state.

The complex required a zone change from single family residential (CR-5) to multifamily residential (CR-1A) and a conditional use permit for the development.

Several neighbors, however, objected to the development, with worries about traffic and changes to the character of the neighborhood, as the development would be surrounded by single-family homes in a wooded setting.

This development would require cutting down most of the trees on the lot.

The planning board also had concerns with access to and from the development.

As designed, the complex would be built on 2.25 acres across the road from the green box site on Meadow Lake Boulevard.

The development would have two buildings, 18 units each and the design is being completed by Montana Creative of Whitefish, which has designed several new buildings in downtown Columbia Falls for developer Mick Ruis, including a new residential-commercial complex that will go in the city square later this spring.

The zone change complied with the city’s growth policy.

The project looked to extend city water lines to the land up Meadow Lake Boulevard. A sewer main already runs near the property that serves Meadow Lake resort.

An internal circular drive would have accessed the apartments and the buildings would have had sprinkler systems for fire safety.

The complex was supposed to have a mix of studio, one and two bedroom apartments.

The Columbia Falls city council has the final say in the matter, though it rarely goes against planning board recommendations.

Council was supposed to take up the application at its first meeting in March, but that will be delayed, as the developer has pulled the application after the planning board’s decision, city manager Susan Nicosia said.

It hasn’t yet indicated to city staff what changes it would make to make the development more amenable.