Two Mile apartment project goes before board

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The Kalispell Planning Board will deliberate a proposed 324-unit housing project on Two Mile Drive at its next meeting on Tuesday. The project drew a cacophony of objections from area residents the first time it came before the board in December.

The development comprises two parts as it relates to Planning Board consideration. The first would require the city to annex the 15-acre parcel and give it an RA-2 zoning designation. The second would be to give the green light to construct the mass of apartment buildings, parking and recreational space the developer has proposed.

The proposed site borders Two Mile Drive to the south and is about halfway between the U.S. 93 bypass and North Meridian Road.

A number of complaints about the project came from nearby residents concerned about the impact to traffic, stormwater drainage, crime and the deterioration of views.

The December meeting concluded with the Planning Board asking the Spokane, Washington-based developer, Todd Whipple, to accrue more information about traffic and a stormwater study. The developers contend traffic will be inconsequential everywhere except at the intersections of Hawthorne and Two Mile Drive and Hawthorne and Three Mile Drive, where they estimate it could lengthen waits at peak usage times by as much 3 seconds.

The developer says a turning lane is unlikely to mitigate the decreased level of service, and that they are still working on other options. They plan to collect more traffic data in the spring.

The developer also submitted a stormwater plan. In it, the proposed stormwater retention ponds are not adjacent to the property boundaries but contained farther within the site.

The proposed site is currently a field, with essentially no impervious area, so nearby residents were concerned added pavement could have an adverse impact and lead to flooding.

The Kalispell Public Works Department has indicated they would like a geologist to review the stormwater plan before it is deemed acceptable. That has yet to happen. The new placements of the stormwater retention ponds are relatively close to the proposed building sites. Public Works staff has reviewed the plan and said the Whipple’s calculations appeared reasonable.

The developer is also planning on adding sidewalks throughout the development, and would be required to upgrade Two Mile Drive on the property frontage to include a curb, gutters, landscaping and sidewalks. The project would include extending Teton Street to the western boundary of the site and upgrading the street to have sidewalks, curbs and gutters.

Many members of the public decried what they felt would be an assault on the views of surrounding mountains they have enjoyed for years. To help address those fears, the developer has taken views on how some of the buildings closest to nearby single-family housing will appear from Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier streets.

The city doesn’t regulate diminished views, though a staff memo from the planning department does say developers should evaluate projects based on how well it fits in with the surrounding community. Planning staff wrote in the memo that they felt the impact on view wasn’t significant because of the proposed setbacks the apartments would have from the property lines. The developer has also proposed covered parking that would be no higher than one story around the property.

Planning staff did not provide a recommendation for board members, setting up what will likely be a lively debate with more solid information to act on. If the planning board approves the project, it still needs to get approval from the City Council before being finalized.

During the meeting, the Planning Board will also hold a public hearing and take comments tfrom members of the public about a proposal for a major subdivision, dubbed Southside Estates Phase 2. Approval would lead to the subdividing of a 9.6 acre lot into 30 residential lots.

Of the 30 lots, four would be for single-family housing and 26 would be for townhomes for a total of 56 units. The applicant, Team Development LLC is requesting a variance to the project.

Specifically, they are asking to be able to create block lengths in excess of 600 feet, which is the current cap, and to not have the subsequent right-of-way extensions at the normal-length block intervals as well.

The board will also formally announce the resignation of Steve Lorch, who is leaving his post and day job to travel with his wife, as the Daily Inter Lake previously reported.

The Kalispell City Planning Board meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Kalispell council chambers.

Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 of pfrissell@dailyinterlake.com.

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