The political has become the personal in Ravalli County, where a land development company has accused the county’s Land Services director of obstructionism after county officials twice rejected phases of the densest subdivision ever proposed in the Bitterroot.
Brooks Creek Acres was proposed last year by Questa Resources, Inc. of Bigfork. The subdivision—more a small town by Montana standards—consists of 300-plus homes and businesses on both sides of Highway 93 in the Stevensville area.
So far, no homes have been built. In fact, the only change to the vast field where the subdivision may or may not be built is the construction of a lengthy drainage ditch, designed to siphon off the high groundwater that plagues the property.
Land Services Director Jake Kammerer said his office came to loggerheads with Questa Resources after the county planning board and county commissioners rejected the first two phases of the eight-phase development. Not only is the groundwater too high to accommodate septic tanks, but it seems the property has no highway access.
Only two narrow dirt farm roads, one at either end of the property, provide access to the land. Those roads worked fine when the land was in agricultural production, but Kammerer says they’re inadequate for serving hundreds of homes, particularly in cases of fire or medical emergencies.
The Montana Department of Transportation, which has plans to widen that stretch of highway at some point in the next few years, won’t grant Questa Resources any new accesses, Kammerer says. That lack of highway access together with unacceptably high groundwater has doomed at least the first two phases.
Kammerer recently asked Questa Resources, and its engineering consultant, DJ&A of Missoula, to provide an environmental analysis of the project, which prompted a letter to county commissioners accusing Kammerer of trying to halt the development.
Kammerer and northern valley commissioner Jack Atthowe say that no one is trying to stop the project, but that an environmental analysis is warranted in light of the access and groundwater problems.
Why a land developer has raised such a fuss over issues that clearly need to be addressed before a subdivision of that size can be approved is simple to explain, Kammerer says. In a word: arrogance.
“They’re arrogant and they thought they were going to get [approval]. They thought they’d be received with open arms and that Ravalli County was going to let them do it. They thought everybody here fell off a pumpkin truck. How is it they didn’t develop the access issues first? So now, they’re building a small city, but they never went to MDOT first.”