GREAT FALLS – The Great Falls City Commission tabled a resolution to annex land east of Great Falls for development during Tuesday night’s meeting.
The proposal known as Wheat Ridge Estates aimed to annex a little more than 21 acres at the end of 57th Street North near Walmart on 10th Avenue South for the first phase of a project, which envisions a master planned community featuring residential housing and mixed used parcels.
City staff recommended denial of three requests for Wheat Ridge Estates on Tuesday’s agenda due to impacts to Malmstrom Air Force Base, stormwater issues, and public safety concerns in light of a fire or EMS call. Traffic connectivity because of the single road leading in and out of the development along 57th Street North was also of concern at the meeting although developer Spencer Woith explained that another exit has been designed for emergency purposes.
Woith, a Great Falls native, presented to the commission stating Wheat Ridge Estates could help Great Falls progress in a new and exciting direction and begin a much-needed expansion on the east end of town.
Several people spoke in favor of the development stating the potential for positive fiscal impacts and growth. Some supporters included Loren Smith, owner of the KOA Campground that would neighbor the development, and other business owners. Many realtors in the audience expressed the need for more housing opportunities in Great Falls as reason for their support.
A few others, including some business owners, opposed the development because of how it might affect Malmstrom Air Force Base and the need to protect what Great Falls already has.
David Weissman, chair of the Montana Defense Alliance, said the development causes concern for current mission operations and potential future operations should the runway be activated again.
Commissioners learned that about seven of the first 21 acres are part of an accident potential zone (APZ) associated with the Base. The Base’s runway has not been used since 1995 when the flying mission was officially realigned, according to city documents, however the future of the runway is unknown.
Stormwater issues were brought forward as the preliminary plans for the development propose a series of detention ponds designed to hold the post-development rate of flow.
City documents state the pond would temporarily remain in Cascade County’s jurisdiction and has been designed to capture and detain stormwater drainage. The documents continue that the design does not mitigate for an increased total volume of water.
City documents also state the plan creates a concentration of the stormwater discharge point rather than dispersed points of natural flow.
Woith told the commission, however, that he had recently presented a stormwater solution to city staff.
After the public hearing concluded, Commissioner Owen Robinson motioned to adopt the resolution because of the growth it could bring to Great Falls.
Commissioner Mary Moe seconded his motion before withdrawing and stating her vote relied upon Woith’s stormwater solution. She also mentioned a deeper look into the emergency egress planned for the development.
Commissioner Bill Bronson said he would not vote to adopt the resolution because of the development’s impacts on Malmstrom Air Force Base and how the decision might affect the Department of Defense.
Commissioner Tracy Houck raised concerns about the stormwater issues and said she preferred to table the resolution until the city and Woith were able to thoroughly examine the new plans.
After Robinson’s original motion to adopt was cleared, Mayor Bob Kelly, Bronson, Houck, and Robinson voted to table the resolution until January 15, 2019. Moe was the lone “nay” vote.
Click here to visit the city’s website and read documents concerning Wheat Ridge Estates.
Reporting by Natalie McAlpine for MTN News