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Subdivision plan not sensible

| June 29, 2022 6:40 AM

The recent passing of Bill Shaw brings to mind Bill being the last farmer to put up the hay from the 49 acres along River Road east of Columbia Falls. Now, that field is destined to become high density three-story apartment buildings and row houses for 1,200 residents within the cty limits. The Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association (UFNA) is opposed to this proposal as submitted by James Barnett, also building the apartments at Silverbrook subdivision north of Kalispell along Highway 93 and Church Drive. That is what the open space along the Flathead River will look like if the Columbia Falls Planning Board recommends approval July 12, and the City Council approves the development on Aug.1. The UFNA is not opposed to development, our mission statement supports “sensible development.” This is not sensible.

For more information visit Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association Facebook page or e-mail upperflatheadna@gmail.com for a copy of our July newsletter.

River Highlands does not fit the character of the neighborhood. A review of the size of properties in the neighborhood east of the River reveals a density of about .125 units/ acre, a far cry from the 9 units/acre in the proposal. There is still farming in the neighborhood.

Drilling sewer and water lines under the Flathead River is part of the plan hooking into the City system at 3rd Ave. East, running along the south side of Highway 2, through Teakettle Fishing Access, under the River and up to a point near the existing Highway 2/River Road intersection. The developer would cover the cost of the initial installation. While permitting is required this is serious business potentially impacting River water quality for many years to come. Of great concern is the riverbed “scouring” that takes place on riverbeds especially during spring run-off when water volume is greatest.

Don’t be misled by the mention of a traffic light on Highway 2. This proposal does not assure a traffic light at the new River Road (300 feet east of the bridge) and Highway 2. It only suggests a “signal warrant study” be conducted after the development has been approved and build out nearing completion (4-10 years). Meanwhile, River Highland Apartments will add at a minimum 682 vehicles (1.5 parking spaces x 455 units) using River Road, an already burdened County road.

Those of us who live here, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, know this field is abundant in whitetail deer, with elk, grizzly and black bear, mountain lion and other mammals passing through. Smaller mammals and numerous birds, including raptors and songbirds are also present. The property not only serves as habitat for these animals, but also as an important corridor as they travel from the south, northward to the new Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area less than a quarter mile to the north.

Annexation to the City will bring its own issues for current city residents with a drain on resources such as police and fire protection, water and sewer availability, and street maintenance including snow removal. Consider the cumulative effect of all the current and soon to be proposed developments east of the River including the 22 acres north of Highway 2.

The Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association urges residents of Columbia Falls and surrounding rural areas to give thoughtful consideration to this proposal and get involved in the decision making process. See our newsletter on Facebook or e-mail a request for the newsletter at the above address for information on how to get involved.

Shirley Folkwein, President, Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association

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