Sunday, September 24, 2023

Putting construction traffic down private road untenable

| January 11, 2023 1:45 PM

Development is inevitable and the proper planning of development is critical. After attending the Columbia Falls City Council meeting on Jan. 3 regarding the proposed Tamarack Meadows subdivision, it’s clear the City Council and Schellinger Construction have an opportunity to exercise leadership in critical thinking and planning for the benefit of the community. The plan is not ready for approval and needs refinement.

Consider the following:

A Hungry Horse News article published on Dec. 15th stated the City Planning Board recognized an impact of traffic to the residents on Meadow Lake Drive and the privately maintained road, Turnberry Terrace. The study identified 971 more trips per day from a traffic impact study. Yet, without a solution to mitigate traffic and address safety impacts, the Planning Board approved the plan. The plan was sent to the City Council for review.

You could hear gasps of astonishment from the public when during deliberations at the City Council meeting, Mayor Barnhardt suggested that construction traffic be prohibited and diverted from Meadow Lake Drive, a county road open to the public and funded by taxpayers, to the privately maintained road, Turnberry Terrace (one should question if that is even legal).

Turnberry Terrace is financially maintained by residents in The Woods at Mountain Watch subdivision. Large construction trucks have already caused issues with road maintenance, dumped materials in inappropriate places, and blocked two-way traffic.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

There is no solution to the acknowledged issue of traffic, safety, and increased road maintenance, yet the Planning Board approved the plan.

This “solution” is not a solution but merely an act of shifting the burden from one community to another, leaving the issue at hand unresolved and giving one side preferential treatment.

An ideal and responsible approach would have been to include all neighborhoods and stakeholders impacted by the plan to discuss how to proceed. This did not happen.

The suggestion by city leadership consisted of diverting construction traffic to a privately maintained road that is steep with curves, where children play, and retirees walk.

It should be further noted that Turnberry Terrace is funded by 30 families, whereas Meadow Lake Drive is funded by the taxpayer dollars of all residents in Flathead County.

Does City Council expect Turnberry Terrace residents to shoulder the increased financial maintenance of the road for the sake of the developer?

Does Schellinger Construction think the same?

Will City Council and Schellinger Construction address traffic and safety concerns of Turnberry Terrace, Meadow Lake Drive and neighboring stakeholders before approving the plan?

David Restivo

Columbia Falls

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