City planning board to again consider Dick’s RV Park rezone

During their Jan. 10 meeting, the city planning board will be asked to rescind their Dec. 13 vote on the requested rezoning of the Dick’s RV Park.

The property owners have requested to rezone the property from R-10 mobile home park to R-6 multifamily high density for a planned 513-unit apartment complex.

During their December meeting the board voted 3-3 on a motion to approve the zoning, meaning the action failed.

The board then discussed wanting to wait for Neighborhood Council 1 to make their decision. The council met that night and voted 3-1 to support the project.

Rather than withdraw or amend the motion to approve during their Dec. 13 meeting, the board tied, essentially denying the rezone request, when instead they intended to postpone action, according to staff.

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After the tied vote, the board voted 5-1 to postpone the action to their Jan. 10 meeting.

Staff is asking the board to rescind their initial vote and reconvene a public hearing during the Jan. 10 meeting.

“Montana law contains certain requirements regarding the provision of detailed findings as to why an application for development is approved or denied,” according to staff.

Staff recommended detailed findings during the December meeting but the board’s record of discussion and vote doesn’t contain sufficient detail for denial and “should be reopened to consider acceptance or rejection and revision of the city staff proposed findings.”

If the planning board rescinds its prior action, staff is recommending a question and answer period with staff, the applicant and public comment to further consider the requesting rezoning.

After that discussion, the board could maintain its denial, but then must present alternative findings, as required by state law and city code; or recommend approval and adopt city staff’s findings.

The board must also make a recommendation on the applicant’s minor subdivision request, which was also postponed to the Jan. 10 meeting.

The applicant, Craig Development out of North Dakota, has requested to rezone the roughly 15-acre property from R-10 Mobile Home Park to R-6 Multi-family High Density.

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The property includes two parcels, one is 14.8 acres, which is Tract 2, and the other is 1.9 acres, Tract 1.

The applicant is under contract to purchase the property pending the zone change and subdivision requests.

If the rezone is approved, the developer plans to build River’s Edge Apartments, with 513 apartment units on Tract 2 and a clubhouse.Dicks RV park rendering

Tract 1 borders the Sun River and would be used only as a park with outdoor amenities, according to the staff report. That parcel can’t be developed due to floodplain restrictions, according to staff. A portion in the northwest corner of Tract 2 is also in the floodplain and any construction in that area would have to comply with floodplain restrictions.

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The existing campground use isn’t allowed in the R-10 zoning district, but is considered a legal, non-conforming land use since that’s how it’s been used for decades.

The applicant is proposing to construct five buildings with a main level of parking and four levels of housing above.

The complex would be accessed from 13th Avenue Southwest, which is the same street that currently provides access to the RV park, according to staff.

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The city used its third party engineering firm, Sanderson Stewart, to conduct a traffic study on the impact the proposed development would have on local traffic infrastructure.

The developer has asked the Montana Department of Transportation to allow for emergency access from 6th Street Southwest into the east side of the property where there’s currently a 12-foot wide pathway that connects the RV park to a multi-use trail that runs along 6th Street Southwest, according to staff.

MDT has approved the emergency access, but the access has yet to be designed and that would need MDT and city approval.

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The emergency access is required by fire code and is a condition of approval for the rezoning request, according to city staff, as well as working with Great Falls Fire Rescue for accessibility from Fire Station 4, which is currently blocked by a narrow, raised median.

The project would also require extension of the nearby water main and sanitary sewer, and stormwater management.

Staff recommended approval of the rezone, despite it being noncontiguous to other lots with the same zoning designation because:

  • the property is already zoned R-10, which currently allows a different form of multi-unit development, the current use of the property is also a different form of higher density housing;
  • the property borders an active rail line, two extremely busy roadways, and commercially zoned property to the south. This makes low density residential development less attractive;
  • although the property borders two very busy roadways, there is no ability to access these roadways for anything other than emergency service. This lack of easy access makes nonresidential development much less feasible.

The traffic study determined that the project would generate more traffic at key intersections, including the exit ramps off of Country Club Boulevard and 14th Street Southwest, as well as the intersection of 14th Street Southwest and 13th Avenue Southwest, but the future capacity results are very similar to the existing conditions, according to staff.

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The traffic study concludes estimated that about 2,329 gross trips could be generated daily and recommended that stop signs be located on site from the proposed apartment complex as drivers will be turning onto 13th Avenue Southwest.

Andrew Finch, the city’s transportation planner, said during the December meeting that staff would monitor the traffic in the area if the development is constructed, and make future traffic control modifications if necessary.

The developer also requested to subdivide Tract 2 for phasing and financial purposes. The planning board didn’t vote on that request but tabled it to their Jan. 10 meeting.

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Robert Osowski, with Woith Engineering, told the board in December that they’re planning to start construction this summer and will try to maintain as many existing trees as possible.

Joe Murphy of Big Sky Civil Engineering said in December that he didn’t oppose development but had concerns with traffic for the project since his office is along the access road to the proposed apartment complex.

The Great Falls Development Authority spoke in favor of the project during the December meeting.

There was no other public comment in December.

Several members of the planning board asked in December to know what other sites the developer considered, but staff said that’s outside their purview and they can only consider the request before them.

Dave Bertelson, board chair, said in December he’s pro-development and the city has a severe need of housing, but that he’d like to see development other than apartments on the property.