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Opposes River Highlands

| January 11, 2023 12:50 PM

The Planning Board should reject the River Highlands application for the following reasons:

  1. We don’t need it. The City has already approved the 102 unit Garnier Heights subdivision, 24 condo units on Nucleus, two 6 plexes on Diane, and the tentative approval of 103 lots in Meadow Lake. There are also individual homes being built in the area. There is no need for density housing.

  2. The application is all smoke and mirrors. The developer only commits to building out phase one, which is the apartment buildings, stating that the rest of the development will be built out only if economic conditions are favorable. The detached houses, which are most compatible with this area, are in the last phase and may never be built. This is problematic as in the application the developer states that the houses will act as a visual buffer for the apartments. By approving this application, you are allowing the developer to build nine apartment buildings, and nothing more.

  3. There is no restriction against short-term rentals. All of the proposed units, including the houses, are projected to be rental units. The entire subdivision could end up being a VRBO community, with no benefit whatsoever to local housing needs.

  4. The Traffic Impact Study is faulty. The study was done in January. The application states that it is not accurate with respect to summer traffic, so it adjusted the numbers up. Based on what? The TIS also fails to provide any analysis whatsoever of traffic flowing south onto Columbia Falls Stage.

  5. A traffic signal on Highway 2 must be installed prior to construction. The TIS states that it will evaluate the need for a traffic signal as the development progresses into later phases. So, they plan to use the existing road for all construction vehicles and workers and for the apartments. And, the State must approve the signal, which it may refuse to do.

  6. An Environmental Impact Assessment should be required. The application lists several species of concern, including Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle, then states “none of these have been observed on site.” All three of these species frequent the area. The application also states that “water dependent fowl would not be affected as they are not disturbing the riverbank.” Density housing within 30 yards of the river will affect water dependent fowl

  7. Not work force housing. While the application goes to great length to say it is providing work force housing, in the section where they promote the increased tax revenue to the City, they use a house valuation of $628,000.

  8. Open space is limited. The proposed park of 5 acres may never be built, as it is in the final phase with details provided “during the construction document phase.”

  9. There is no need to change the development approval already in place. In 2008, this property was approved for 151 residential units, consisting of condo’s, townhomes and individual cabins. There is no need whatsoever to deviate from that plan.

Scot Schermerhorn

Columbia Falls

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