A new subdivision near Stevensville could become the third-largest community in Ravalli County if all goes according to the plans submitted to the county planning office last week. But the surrounding neighborhood, which recently rallied against a proposed racetrack, is not gathering itself to fight the proposed addition of 338 new homes and a strip of commercial development along the highway.
“The community is growing and houses have to go somewhere,” explained Cora Cochran, who was instrumental in establishing a group called Bitterrooters Against the Racetrack (BAR) last spring. “We’d rather have houses across the road than a racetrack.”
The 338-residence development would be spread over 294 acres on both sides of U.S. Highway 93, just north of the proposed site for Bitterroot Motor Sports raceway at the Stevensville Wye. The subdivision proposal calls for a central water and sewer system and an eight-phase development. In comparison, the incorporated town of Darby at the southern end of Ravalli County has 310 residences hooked to its central water system.
Eight maps of the proposed project—now called Brooks Creek Acres—were submitted to the planning office by Questa Resources, Inc., a year-old Bigfork development company which is a subsidiary of Questa Mortgage, a Billings-based company. Questa Resources has completed one other resort development in the Polson area. Questa president Lee Burrington said the formal proposal will be submitted for review within a few weeks.
For their part, county planners declined to discuss the project until a formal submission is in their department. According to planner Mike Cavanaugh, the plans are simply undergoing a preliminary review to study potential impacts and what can be done to mitigate them.
“The plans we have now may change substantially depending on these preliminary discussions and may not be anything like the plans that are formally submitted in a few weeks,” Cavanaugh told Ravalli County manager Don Klepper, when asked why his office was reluctant to release the documents.
In terms of population density, the proposal is the largest ever submitted to the planners. However, it will probably face far less opposition than the proposed racetrack complex, which has been under fire since it was announced last spring. Cochran and others mobilized their neighborhood and collected more than 1,500 signatures on a petition opposing the location of a raceway in the rural neighborhood. This week Cochran said the group’s steering committee met recently and the general consensus of opinion was that the subdivision was much preferred over the racetrack.
“I have hopes this will change things,” Cochran said. “We think that it [the development] might drive the race track out. We’d rather have the houses than that dumb racetrack.”
Burrington said in an earlier interview that the proposed race track could alter plans for the subdivision, but he did not elaborate.
As presented on the preliminary documents, the eight phases of development include (in order of construction): 30 townhouses; 16 single-family houses; 39 mixed-use units; 15 single family houses; 56 single family houses; a larger multi-family unit, a commercial zone on the west side of US Highway 93; and 48 residences of fairly large lots on a hillside at the northwest corner of the development. The plans call for seven clusters of homes—three west of the highway and four east of the highway—21 streets, several ponds and parks, two wildlife corridors, and a municipal water and sewer system that, according to the plans, would be built to specifications which would make it possible to connect to Stevensville’s infrastructure in the future.
But Stevensville officials have not received any communication from the development company and, according to the clerk, has no plans to expand services to the Wye area which lies across the Bitterroot River. Recent plans for sewer improvements in Stevensville are to keep step with the town’s growth and do not include future incorporation plans for other areas.
Community leaders are waiting to see what the formal proposal is before commenting on the subdivision.
“Initially I’d have to think that more homes would be good for business and the community,” said Heather Fox, president of the Stevensville Civic Club. “But I can’t speak for the entire board and we haven’t met to discuss this matter yet.”
Because the proposed development is directly across the Bitterroot River from the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge, the federal government will be weighing in with opinions and suggestions when a formal document is filed. And proponents of the racetrack will, no doubt, also have something to say about the plans and review process. However, spokespersons for the track did not return phone calls from the Independent.
“Nothing more can be said or done until the plans come in,” Cavanaugh said.