County permits out of doors park zoning course of to proceed

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The Lake County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 on Tuesday afternoon to move forward with the planning of a planned outdoor recreation park near Rollins, contrary to the recommendation of the County Planning Board.

Torsten and Jessica Wedel are striving to change the zoning regulations so that they can build the park on approximately 17 acres between Lakeside and Rollins on the west side of US 93 and south of Goose Bay and Table Bay. The Wedels want to offer family-friendly activities for locals and tourists outside of the most popular areas of the Flathead Valley.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve “a letter of intent approving the changed language of Subdistrict C of the Upper West Shore Zoning District to allow commercial uses as conditional use.”

“This is not a permit from the park,” said Commissioner Dave Stipe. “This is only part of the process. People are protesting things that have not yet been petitioned. We have to go through the process. “

Commissioners Gale Decker and Stipe voted in favor of the Memorandum of Understanding. Commissioner Bill Barron voted against, raising concerns about highway congestion and adding that volunteer firefighters and rescue workers may not be able to reach areas quickly due to traffic.

The proposed change to the county’s Upper West Shore Zoning District regulations would enable a range of commercial outdoor recreational activities, including nature watching, ax throwing, outdoor laser tag, mini golf, gem mining, cable cars, zip lines, summer camps, horse riding, tubing hills, and “mountain drives” .

The amended rules would specifically prohibit commercial swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys, RV parks and commercial resorts.

Few commercial activities such as vacation rentals and bed and breakfast properties are currently allowed in the area subject to the proposed change known as Subdistrict C.

The Lake County Planning Board unanimously voted on April 14 to recommend that the county reject the zoning request after public comments during the meeting were largely against the proposal.

The Wedels bought real estate within Subdistrict C and claimed during the meeting on Tuesday that they had been told by their agent that the area was already designated for commercial use, as they propose.

Before Tuesday’s vote, commissioners heard comments from local residents and others for about three hours. Few have expressed support for the proposal.

District Attorney Wally Congdon said if the commissioners passed the MoU, they could institute a 30-day comment period, open only to those who own property in Subdistrict C of the zoned district.

“We heard from 30,000 people on a petition,” Decker said. “I want to hear from the people in Sub-District C.”

The Wedels, who live in Stevensville, run the North American subsidiary of Wiegand, a German company that makes slides, toboggan runs and non-propelled roller coasters that many ski resorts use to attract business in the warmer months. The couple said Wiegand was not involved in their plans for the outdoor park.

Opponents have largely focused on questions of transport and public safety. This section of Highway 93 is considered one of the most dangerous in the state, and many have argued that adding a busy stop where people frequently enter and exit the highway would make the problems worse.

Emergency response times in the region are also not particularly good. Ambulances responding to medical emergencies often have to travel from Polson, depending on the situation. And the fire departments in nearby Rollins and Lakeside are volunteer departments.

Opponents also cited concerns about the impact on the abundant wildlife in the area and a possible increase in violations and general crime that the project could bring.

The Wedels have argued that the characterizations of the project’s neighbors are exaggerated, saying they were linked to conservation groups and the Montana Department of Transportation.

“We are not planning a theme park, water park, etc.,” said Torsten Wedel at the beginning of April to the Daily Inter Lake. “We believe that with this change in text, the possibilities would add diversity to lake activities and ease the congested access points to the lake. We believe that different activities are contributing to the overcrowding of the currently popular areas.”

The Wedels still have to describe in detail what activities their park would offer.

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