On a 3-0 vote, Flathead County Commissioners voted Friday to approve the West Glacier RV Park and Cabins project in West Glacier.
It took commissioners nearly two hours to go over conditions for the Park, which had broad opposition by the West Glacier community, mainly because of the additional traffic the park will bring.
Glacier Park Inc. will develop 102 recreational vehicle spaces and 25 rental cabins on a 178-acre forested tract of land just west of the main village site off River Bend Drive. The RV Park will have 63 acres of open space, 67 acres of residential area, and 47 acres for the campground. The actual developed land area is about 23 acres.
The park will also have its own water wells. A green space buffer will be around the park, and land that is adjacent to the Middle Fork of the Flathead River north of River Bend Drive will remain undeveloped.
County commissioners seemed to reject residents’ complaints that the company’s traffic study was inadequate. In fact, they wrote in a condition that found that the company’s traffic study was competent.
“I think they’ve done a good job,” said commissioner Phil Mitchell. “I think they’ve done a good study.”
Having said that, Mitchell, later in the meeting, said he “would like for (GPI) to have a second entrance to this property.”
In the end, however, the commissioners did not require a second entrance. They only required that GPI work with the Montana Department of Transportation.
“The developer shall work with Montana Department of Transportation to determine if any road modifications are practical and necessary at the intersections of Going to the Sun Road and Highway 2 and River Bend Drive and Going to the Sun Road. However, it cannot be expected that all future and existing traffic congestion issues can be realistically corrected by the developer,” Commissioner Gary Krueger added as a condition, taking out the condition that GPI obtain necessary permits from MDT.
Krueger’s condition was endorsed by Mitchell and Commissioner Pam Holmquist.
Residents complained in the past that during the summer months, making a left-hand turn out of River Bend Drive onto the Going-to-the-Sun Road can take up to 10 minutes. They claim that adding RV traffic will make matters even worse.
But county planning staff noted the RV Park did meet the requirements set forth in the Canyon Area Land Use Regulatory System.
Commissioners did require that the company build a 6-foot paved bike-pedestrian path adjacent from River Bend Drive to West Glacier as a safety measure for bicyclists and pedestrians.
They also limited the number of dogs per RV to one.
After the meeting, GPI spokesperson Rebecca Baker said the company plans on starting construction on the first phase of the development later this summer or early this fall.
It will have its own water supply and sewer system. It’s also required to have bear-proof garbage containers and dark-sky friendly lighting, among a host of other conditions.
Still, residents have been unhappy with GPI’s plans since they bought the property from the Lundgren family a few years ago.
“I found it disingenuous for them to say they weren’t going to change the character of West Glacier by building a 102-site RV Park,” longtime River Bend Drive resident Steve Frye said.
Frye is a former chief ranger at Glacier National Park.
River Bend Drive resident Herb Mains agreed that the traffic problem hadn’t been adequately addressed. He said the traffic study was rushed through.
“They’ve whitewashed it,” he said.
GPI doesn’t plan on operating the facility year-round.
The company has also bought other properties in the Canyon. It recently acquired the Hungry Horse Motel and is converting it into employee housing. It owns former Head Start school in Martin City, and converted that into employee housing as well.
In St. Mary it’s adding 10 “tiny homes” near the St. Mary Lodge.
Baker said the company is happy to work with MDT on traffic issues. This summer looks to be another busy one, she noted.