July 21 – Lake County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously opposed a zoning change for an area along the west bank of Flathead Lake that would have paved the way for a proposed outdoor recreational facility that met with immense opposition from neighbors.
The commissioners named potential traffic problems as concern number 1 before rejecting Torsten and Jessica Wedel’s proposal.
The Wedels had asked the county to change the zoning regulations so they could build the outdoor 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 couple said they wanted to offer family-friendly activities for both locals and tourists outside of the more popular areas of the Flathead Valley.
The plan was highly controversial and resulted in hundreds of letters of objection to the Lake County Planning Board recommending commissioners reject the motion in April. Many opponents raised concerns about noise, wildlife and environmental effects, and additional traffic on US 93.
Commissioners – Gale Decker, Dave Stipe and Bill Barron – chose to move the motion and the public hearing process forward before rejecting the proposal on Tuesday. The decision was received with applause by the opponents of the project who were present.
“As the commissioner, I’m glad we brought the process to a close,” Decker said. Noticing the overwhelming public opposition, he added, “I don’t think there is any solution to the traffic problem.”
THE PROPOSED change in Upper West Shore Zoning District regulations would have enabled a range of commercial outdoor recreational activities in an area known as Subdistrict C, including nature watching, ax throwing, outdoor laser tagging, mini golf, gem mining, rope gardens, zip lines, summer camps, Horseback riding, tubing hills and “mountain rides”.
In particular, the amended rules would have banned commercial swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys, RV parks and commercial resorts. Few commercial activities such as vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts are currently allowed in Subdistrict C.
The story goes on
The Wedels, who live in Stevensville, run the North American branch of Wiegand, a German company that makes slides, toboggan runs and non-powered roller coasters that many ski resorts use to attract business in the warmer months. In April, however, the couple told Daily Inter Lake that Wiegand was not involved in their plans for the outdoor park.
The Wedels also refused to characterize their proposal as an “amusement park” or “amusement park”, insisting that their plans be more modest.
At the beginning of the process, many neighbors stated that they had not been sufficiently formally informed about the Wedels proposal. However, even if the zoning change had been approved, the couple would still have had to apply for conditional use permits, undergo more public hearings, and undergo construction and environmental reviews by local and state authorities in order to build the park.
Assistant Editor Chad Sokol can be reached at 406-758-4439 or [email protected]