It’s been about eight years since Wolford Development proposed building what was once known as the Glacier Mall, since renamed Glacier Town Center, on the outskirts of Kalispell.
After all that time, it’s hard to imagine principal Bucky Wolford feeling particularly good about the way his plan got singled out for criticism. While Wolford’s development ground to a halt after a lawsuit by North 93 Neighbors, a local smart growth group, the area literally across the street from his supposedly monstrous threat to the community has sprouted numerous large commercial developments, including a Costco, Lowe’s, Target, Starbucks, McDonalds, Best Buy and others.
The case against the mall made it all the way to the Montana Supreme Court before Wolford and North 93 Neighbors finally hammered out a settlement agreement back in February.
Basically, the opposing sides sat down with a design team and created the Glacier Town Center, a mixed-use development with 70 acres of park space to replace the originally planned 700,000 square foot mall.
But now Citizens for a Better Flathead, another local activist group, wants the city to require Wolford Development to build an elaborate traffic interchange on U.S. Hwy. 93, rather than install two new traffic lights as the developer has proposed.
According to Kalispell City Planner Tom Jentz, the interchange would cost about 10 times as much as a traffic light. Wolford Development Vice President Chad Wolford puts the number closer to 20 times the cost a traffic light. Either way, the price would jump from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
For the moment, the city has come up with a plan for the developer to set aside two parcels on the property for two years, in case the city wants the interchange later.
Wolford says he can live with that, although he doesn’t agree that the interchange is necessary. However, Wolford told the Independent, if he’s forced to pay for an elaborate traffic solution, he might finally give up on the mall after all.
The Kalispell City Council will hold a public hearing on annexing and zoning the mall January 7, but hasn’t set a date for a final vote on the project.