The Lake County Council of Commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday afternoon to allow planning for an outdoor recreation park project near Rollins to move forward, against the County Planning Council’s recommendation.
Torsten and Jessica Wedel are seeking a change in zoning regulations so that they can build the park on approximately 17 acres between Lakeside and Rollins, on the west side of US 93 and just south of Goose Bay and Table Bay. The Wedels say they aim to provide family-friendly activities for locals and tourists outside of the more popular areas of the Flathead Valley.
Commissioners voted Tuesday to “approve a resolution to approve the amended wording of Sub-District C of the Upper West Shore Zoning District to allow commercial uses as a conditional use.”
“This is not a park endorsement,” said Commissioner Dave Stipe. “This is only part of the process. People are protesting against things that have not yet been the subject of a petition. We have to follow the process. “
Commissioners Gale Decker and Stipe voted to pass the resolution of intent. Commissioner Bill Barron voted against, expressing concerns about road congestion and adding that volunteer firefighters and paramedics may already be unable to reach areas quickly due to traffic.
The proposed amendment to the county’s Upper West Shore Zoning District bylaws would allow a range of commercial outdoor recreation activities, including nature viewing, ax throwing, outdoor laser tag , miniature golf, gem mining, ropes courses, zip lines, summer day riding camps, mountain tubing and “mountain walks”.
The amended regulations would specifically ban commercial swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys, RV parks and commercial resorts.
Currently, only a few commercial activities, such as vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts, are permitted in the area subject to the proposed change, known as Sub-District C.
The Lake County Planning Council voted unanimously on April 14 to recommend that the county deny the zoning change request after public comments at the meeting overwhelmingly opposed the proposal.
The Wedels bought property in Subdistrict C and claimed in Tuesday’s meeting that they had been informed by their real estate agent that the area was already zoned for commercial purposes as they proposed.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, commissioners heard about three hours of commentary from area residents and others. Only a few expressed support for the proposal.
County Attorney Wally Congdon said if commissioners passed the intent resolution then they could start a 30-day comment period open only to those who own property in the Zoning District C subdistrict area. .
“We heard from 30,000 people on a petition,” Decker said. “I want to hear from the people of sub-district C.”
The Wedels, who live in Stevensville, run the North American branch of Wiegand, a German company that makes non-motorized toboggans, toboggan runs and roller coasters that many ski resorts use to attract businesses during the winter months. hotter. The couple said Wiegand was not involved in their plans for the outdoor park.
Opponents have largely focused on traffic and public safety issues. This stretch of Highway 93 is considered one of the most dangerous in the state, and many have argued that adding a busy stop where people frequently enter or exit the freeway would make the problems worse.
In addition, the emergency response times in the region are not very important. Ambulances responding to medical emergencies often have to travel from Polson, depending on the situation. And the fire departments around Rollins and Lakeside are volunteer services.
Opponents also raised concerns about the effects on the area’s abundant wildlife and a potential increase in trespassing and general crime the project could cause.
The Wedels argued that neighbors’ characterizations of the project are exaggerated and said they have been in contact with conservation groups and the Montana Department of Transportation.
“We’re not planning a theme park, water park, etc.,” Torsten Wedel told Daily Inter Lake in early April. “We believe that the possibilities offered by this amendment to the text would offer diversity to lake activities and facilitate congested access points to the lake. We believe that various activities contribute to the overpopulation of the current popular areas.
The Wedels have yet to describe in detail the range of activities their park would offer.