Do a seven-year hiatus and a new name change the status of a Stevensville area subdivision?
In June, a Stevensville-area woman, Julie Wallace, submitted a development called Woodchuck Springs, a 19-lot subdivision in the Burnt Fork area, to the Ravalli County Planning board for approval. The same plan had already been approved by an earlier planning board and the Ravalli County Commissioners in 1993, under the name Burnt Fork Meadows. But that initial approval led to a lawsuit by neighbors, who believed the commissioners had not followed their own criteria for approving developments. The main concern was that the 160-acre subdivision would have a severe impact on Burnt Fork Creek, which passes through the subdivision and serves as the headwaters for Stevensville’s water supply.
The protesters were successful in their lawsuit against the county in both the district court and the Montana Supreme Court. All activity on the project halted, and Dennis Morgan, a California land developer, withdrew from the project. Nothing more was done with the land for more than six years.
But now the same plan with a new name has come before the board. According to Ravalli County planning staff, the new submission shows the same lot size and number as those shown on the earlier Burnt Fork Meadows proposal. The average lot size is about 8.5 acres.
No final decision has been made, but the Montana Supreme Court decision on the earlier attempt will have a definite bearing on any new proposal’s chance for approval, according to Ravalli County Planner Bill Armold. “We have many issues to consider,” Armold says. “The configuration, acreage and number of lots are all the same.”
When the new plan was introduced last month, the planning board had many questions about the proposed development and suggested a number of changes, based on maps provided by a neighboring landowner who indicated that the number of acceptable building sites was smaller than the number of lots being offered.
“We can make suggestions but we can’t order changes at the preliminary meeting,” Armold notes. “We have to wait to see what they come back with.”
A public hearing on the proposal will be held before the planning board at 7 p.m. on Aug. 9 in the Ravalli County Courthouse.