Board considers Bigfork lakeshore variance

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A request for a major lakeshore variance pertaining to the fill standards at Flathead Lake tops a full agenda for the Flathead County Planning and Zoning department’s meeting tonight.

The request comes from Jolene Dugan, who is looking to apply 825 cubic yards of gravel to several properties on Holt Drive in Bigfork where a hydrologist estimates about 30 feet of shoreline has been lost due to erosion. Dugan wishes to re-establish a dynamic equilibrium beach, which is a gravel structure that helps with erosion by fluctuating as water levels change.

The Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee recommended denial of the request for the major variance to the Flathead County Lake and Lakeshore Protection regulations during a meeting on Aug. 29.

The committee, which forwards recommendations of approval or denial for zoning requests in Bigfork to Planning and Zoning, pointed primarily to Dugan’s affiliation with a land bridge on the lake that was recently court-ordered to be removed.

Dugan and her father, Roger Sortino, constructed the 519-foot bridge to Dockstader Island in 2016 — a permit decision that was greenlighted by Flathead County. A local conservation group sued the county over its decision and Flathead District Court Judge Robert Allision later ruled the decision violated the Lakeshore Protection Act. The decision was upheld by the Montana Supreme Court in July, but a timeline for removal of the bridge was not specified.

Although the committee deemed construction of the equilibrium bridge was necessary, some said the cart was put before the horse, questioning whether the impending removal of the bridge would lead to more restoration.

Also on the department’s agenda are two separate requests by the Spring Creek Neighborhood Association.

One request is for a text amendment to county zoning regulations to add a new zoning use district called SAG-15, suburban agricultural with a 15-acre minimum lot size. The proposed zone is similar to the SAG-10 zone, but with items such as cellular communication towers, public transportation shelters, riding academy and rodeo arenas shifting from being permitted uses to requiring conditional-use permits instead.

A second request is for the creation of an entire new zoning district called the Spring Creek Addition Zoning District that proposes nearly 625 acres be zoned AG-20 agricultural and approximately 1,570 acres be zoned SAG-15 suburban agricultural.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) in the second-floor conference room of the South Campus Building, 40 11th St. W. in Kalispell.

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