Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Nathan Bourne
Pathfinder 

RV Park proposed with 72 sites

 

November 21, 2019

Nathan Bourne, Pathfinder

The current plans for the RV Park proposal presented at the Seeley Lake Community Council meeting Nov. 11.

SEELEY LAKE - Developers of a proposed 72-unit RV Park held their neighborhood meeting at the Seeley Lake Community Council's Nov. 11 meeting.

Owner Brandon Grosvenor and Paul Forsting of Territorial Landworks, the company hired to design the project, presented the proposed park.

A little over a year ago the pair had presented a similar proposal but it was never turned into Missoula County. They needed to redo their neighborhood meeting to start the "clock ticking" again.

Forsting said the meeting is required within one year of starting the permitting process with the County. Approving an RV Park is the same as doing a full subdivision, which complicates the process. While this meeting was for collecting public comment there is opportunity through the subdivision review to make public comment directly to the County.

Grosvenor is a long time resident of Missoula and has a state cabin lease site in Seeley Lake. His family got the state lease site about nine years ago to park their camper in the summers since they would often come to Seeley and not be able to find a place to camp. He sees it all the time with other visitors that have to leave because sites are not available. He feels keeping these visitors in town would be an economic benefit for local businesses.

In addition to camping in Seeley, Grosvenor takes a least one trip every year with his camper and stays in all sorts of campgrounds from unimproved to upscale RV parks. They always meet a lot of great people and decided that it would be fun to own an RV park and meet new people all summer long. He plans to own and personally operate the proposed Park.

The RV Park is proposed on the east side of Highway 83 on a 10-acre parcel directly south of the Seeley Lake 1-Stop Convenience Store.

There are a couple of notable changes from the previous year's presentation. The number of lots has been reduced from 82 to 72, giving a slightly larger area between the campsites and residents to the east of the property.

The Park is now proposed in two phases and, as part of the process, the 10-acre lot will be subdivided into two parcels. Forsting said if the Park didn't work out they would have two nice commercial lots.

Grosvenor also now owns the four-acre property to the south, between the proposed Park and the Seeley-Swan Medical Center.

The Park plans to have full service hookups including electric, water and sewer. A bath/shower house is also included in the design. Amenities such as playground, horseshoe pits or a mini golf course have also been discussed.

The property lies in Phase 2 of the collection system for the Seeley Lake sewer project. Forsting said in the last year they explored getting the property included in Phase 1 but they were told that Phase 2 would be built almost simultaneously with Phase 1 so RV Park is planning to wait for Phase 2.

If all goes well Grosvenor hopes to be breaking ground in 2020 and be open for visitors in 2021.

Questions and Answers

What kind of clientele do they expect? Grosvenor said he envisions two types of guests. First, people who are traveling the state and that have a few days to spend so they don't hit the national parks on weekends. Second, people who head to Seeley for the weekend and then find there is nowhere to stay.

How long would people stay? Grosvenor said he expects the sites to turn over regularly and not have people always staying in the same site. Some local business owners have asked him if seasonal workers could rent spots there but that is not his intention with the Park.

If the sewer project doesn't happen would it kill the RV Park? Forsting said they have options and felt they could overcome the challenge of no municipal sewer if needed.

One option is to make it a limited service park and not offer sewage disposal so campers would take their waste with them but that has its complications too.

Grosvenor said initially he thought about having a limited service camping but when they talked to the Missoula City-County Health Department they pushed them to going for a sewer service.

One of the factors the Health Department looks at is if there is a place to dump RV waste within 15 miles of the Park.

"Well, there's of course one in town but the Health Department said that's not really the one we want folks to go to, it was not permitted to handle it," said Forsting. "They said if that [dump station] wasn't there then they would be fine with doing limited [service]."

How will guests and their pets be contained on the site to keep them out of the neighborhood to the east? Grosvenor has heard that neighbors want big fences or barriers but he would rather see something more natural like trees and bushes. He said there are leash laws and they would enforce them. He would be willing to consider something more permanent but he said his clients wouldn't want to look at something like a chain link fence from inside the Park either.

How will lights be prevented from shining on neighboring houses? While the site will need some lighting for safety, most modern lighting is shielded so light shines down and not out. Grosvenor added that nobody wants to go to a campground and camp under a big streetlight so lights will be minimal.

How will campfires be extinguished without water on site? Grosvenor said there are no campfire pits planned currently but that might change. They do have public water to the property so even if it is not plumbed to every campsite water is available on the premises.

What does Grosvenor do for a living now and how is he qualified to manage an RV Park? Grosvenor has spent the last 22 years working for a wholesale distributor that sells trailer parts including RV parts and he currently manages their warehouse. His wife has worked at one of the largest RV dealers in Missoula for about 10 years.

He said his career has been spent working the parts and problem solving side of the RV industry and he would like to be on the happy side of the industry where the fun is, camping.

While Grosvenor has never owned an RV Park he feels that his experience managing six employees with the company he currently works for will suit him well to manage the Park.

What season does the Park plan to be open? Grosvenor initially plans to be open mid May to mid September but people have asked him why he wouldn't be open during hunting season or during snowmobiling season. He said it is hard to tell this early in the planning if those other times would work.

It's already hard to get through traffic in town when the current lodging is full, what do you think adding 75 more RVs to town is going to look like? Forsting said that tourism is a benefit for a lot of people and having extra people in town is a good thing for those people. He said he understands the frustration of change for residents but felt that when it was built it would be done to a higher standard than most of the current campsites in the area.

What will the impact of the extra people be on the lake? Forsting said while there haven't been studies about the people physically being on the lake as much as studies on the impact of all the lakeside development and septic systems causing issues. This Park won't be contributing pollution to the lake because it will be hooked up to the sewer.

Forsting added that when it comes to public things like lakes and land, it is hard when your favorite spot is discovered and that Montana in general and specifically Seeley Lake has been discovered.

How many RV spots are there currently in the valley? Forsting said they haven't actually added them up but he certainly could. He didn't feel that the new Park would be "one too many." He asked the audience and nobody in the room felt they wouldn't be busy.

What about restrictions in the covenants against having RVs on that land? Forsting said the thing about covenants is that it takes an attorney to work through them and figure out what they actually mean. They are civil agreements and often have very little guidance as to what they mean. He was not aware of anything in the covenants that would prevent the RV Park from being constructed.

What is the property zoned for? The property is currently unzoned.

What about the impact of the Park on Highway 83 and traffic safety? Forsting said they have already contacted both the County and Montana Department of Transportation. There will be a traffic study done to identify possible impacts and solutions to any issues identified. Forsting said contrary to what people might think, an RV Park doesn't generate as much traffic as a residential neighborhood.

Will you be clearing all the land of trees? Grosvenor said that has never been the intention. He wants to keep as many of the nice trees as possible and even bought a tree spade in order to transplant some of the nice trees that can't be avoided being removed.

Why did you buy the second lot between the proposed Park and the Medical Center and what are your intentions with it? Grosvenor said he bought the land because he is working with the family who owned both lots and they had a need come up. He was able to purchase that smaller lot to help them out while the larger lot he will need to get a loan to buy and construct the Park on it.

He initially said he had no plans other than to leave the lot vacant but later said there was an emergency exit for the park that would be located near the front of the property.

Something that would benefit the community more would be affordable housing, why not do that? Affordable housing is not Grosvenor's specialty or dream. He did point out that the infrastructure he would be putting in could easily be taken out if someday the Park didn't work out and someone else wanted the land for his or her dream.

Why not consider a site outside of town? Not a lot of sites meet the requirements that this site has such as highway access, water and potentially sewer.

What is next? Forsting is hoping to submit the application in the next few of weeks and hopes a meeting before the planning board can be scheduled next spring.

To make comments on the project, email Forsting at PaulF@TerritorialLandworks.com or email Missoula Community and Planning Services at caps@missoulacounty.us

 

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