Intent to file Alpine Trail Phase 3 and 4 approved
September 16, 2021
SEELEY LAKE – At a Sept. 9 public hearing, the Missoula County Commissioners unanimously approved the notice of intent to file Alpine Trails Phases 3 and 4 subdivision north of Seeley Lake. While the staff with Missoula County Community and Planning Services (CAPS) recommended the removal of a gate restricting access to S.O.S. Road prior to approval, the Commissioners appreciated the solutions and explanation offered and felt that that condition of approval was not needed for Phases 3 and 4 to proceed.
Alpine Trails Subdivision is a 30-lot subdivision on nearly 53 acres north of Cedar Lane and east of Highway 83. The Board of County Commissioners approved Alpine Trails Subdivision submitted by Kakwa River Partners, LLC on Sept. 14. 2017. This was subject to 29 conditions of approval. Phases 1 and 2 (the western half) have been filed and all roads on the map are currently built.
Planning staff considered the relationship of the primary review criteria to the intended platting of Phases 3 and 4 (the eastern half). Missoula County Planner Tim Worley noted a locked gate on the northern edge of Phase 1 of the subdivision that restricts access via S.O.S. Road, an intended point of egress as documented during subdivision review.
S.O.S. Road was confirmed as a point of subdivision ingress and egress during preliminary plat review connecting Morrell Creek Road to the north with Wilderness Ridge Road within the subdivision. This gate removes a north-south connection and eliminates a point of egress for Phase 3 and 4 residents.
Worley said there is also a fire hydrant on S.O.S. Road north of the gate. While Worley said it is still accessible, “it provides less of a measure of protection considering that it is a locked gate at present.”
Worley summarized the sole public comment that was submitted by the adjacent property owners Steven and Lorraine Lowe. The Lowes expressed concerns that their original comments were not heard during the original subdivision review. They felt the County’s agenda is to obtain revenue from the subdivision’s development. They felt that the road on the southern edge of the property was too close to their fence, they are concerned about traffic on Alpine Trail and highlighted the issue that the homes within the subdivision are vacation rentals.
Based on their review, CAPS recommended a condition of approval that required the elimination of the gate on S.O.S. Road, subject to CAPS inspection and approval, prior to the filing of the Phase 3 and 4 plats. This would eliminate potentially significant adverse impacts to local services, public health and safety and physical access.
John Kellogg with Professional Consultants, Inc. said the need for the gate was not anticipated until thru traffic on the private road through the subdivision started to disturb the adjacent landowners. They started to see a lot of thru traffic coming up Wilderness Ridge and cutting through S.O.S Road. Owner and developer Kevin Wetherell added that he and members of the Alpine Trails Homeowner Association also were concerned for the safety of residents and children due to the high speeds motorists were driving.
When asked who owned the road and the property the gate was on, Wetherell explained that S.O.S. Road is a private road owned by Lowes. He said he owned the property prior to Lowes. However, before he sold it, he reserved a 60-foot wide access and utilities easement on S.O.S Road. The gate is on the Lowe’s property but it is within the easement.
Kellogg presented a two-pronged solution regarding the gate on S.O.S Road that he felt addressed CAPS concerns and follows the conditions outlined in the initial subdivision submittal.
First, signs are posted that read, “Private Driveway. Do not block driveway. 24-access required.”
Second, provide a combination lock for the gate with an access code that would be provided to all homeowners in the subdivision and emergency responders should access be needed.
“By locking this gate yet providing emergency response access I think addresses everything that was intended in the original approval because we are providing public safety to the owners of the development and the residents and the children in addition to providing emergency response with the known password access,” Wetherell said.
Wetherell said similar combination locks are used to allow emergency access for gates to private roads in the area on River Watch, Big Sky Lake and Emerald Lake. While he acknowledged Worley’s safety concern by limiting access, the intention of the gate was to protect public safety and slow people down.
In response to Worley’s concern about the access to the fire hydrant, Wetherell said there is an additional fire hydrant within the subdivision that is only three lots south of the gate. This allows good access to fire hydrants on both sides of the gate for all residents.
Worley told the Commissioners he felt Wetherell was improvising in light of Lowes’ concern. While the concern was not lost to him, it just wasn’t part of the original application and it reduces the egress points by one.
Commissioner Josh Slotnick said it does not look like an inconvenience to turn left on Alpine Trail to go to Highway 83. Since there are two points of access, he does not feel there is an issue restricting public access to the third as long as emergency access can be maintained. He said he doesn’t have an issue since there are two points of access.
Commission Chair Dave Strohmaier agreed and said he was encouraged that all homeowners will have the access code for the gate should they need an emergency egress.
Without any additional public comment, the commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the intent to file excluding CAPS recommended condition of approval.