City takes first steps of further development of industrial park

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The Columbia Falls City Council Monday night took the first steps in what could result in further development of an industrial park on former Plum Creek property.

Council approved the creation of a targeted economic development district for the property which includes for the former sawmill and planer building as well as other surrounding lands.

The TEDD, as itís called, allows the city to use some funds from property taxes above and beyond the current valuation to further provide services and infrastructure for park.

The TEDD is similar to a tax increment finance district the city already has in place along its commercial strip. Those funds are allowing the city to do things like wayward signs and other enhancements to downtown.

The creation of the new TEDD is contingent on the owners of the park, Columbia Rising LLC, which includes developer Mick Ruis, coming up with a preliminary plat to subdivide the property fairly soon.

That subdivision would require city services like sewer and water. Currently, the site is served by a previous infrastructure that Plum Creek maintained.

Columbia Rising bought the property from Weyerhaeuser, which merged with Plum Creek, last year. SmartLam is an anchor tenant at the park. It makes super strong cross-laminated wood panels used for buildings, bridges, oil well platforms and other structures.

If the developers come forward with the plat plan, the city will, in turn, contract with Community Development Services of Montana to create the TEDD and do the necessary groundwork and regulatory compliance. The contract for that work amounts to $28,500.

If the project comes to fruition, the city could leverage federal grants to bring infrastructure to the park, which could men more businesses and more jobs for residents.

In other news:

• The city heard from Gateway to Glacier Trail representatives about future bike paths along the Flathead River. The group is planning on developing a bike route along the river on land owned by the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. The group has a license from CFAC to build the trail, but representatives Sarah Dakin and Jamie Belt asked the city to partner with the group to administer the license for the long term. Council took no action on the matter.

• A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 2 in council chambers for a plan by the Riverwood Estates Homeowners Association to sell a 30-foot wide by 286-foot long strip of land along the Flathead River thatís owned by the association. The subdivision is now annexed into the city and the homeowners association is disbanding. The park land was required when the subdivision was first approved by the county years ago, but is no longer needed.

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