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  Comments (0) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
Annual Planning Report Shows Workload Increases
Planning office expects increases in 2014 and the future
Aerial image of Kidsports Complex in Kalispell courtesy of the Flathead County Interactive Mapping Site, via the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Office.
The Flathead County Planning and Zoning Office released its activity and workload report for 2013, and noted that the valley should be prepared for a return of growth and development as the economy continues to rebound and more people across the country reach retirement age.

Development is cyclical, the report states, and even though the county is making its way through a bust part of the boom-and-bust pattern, the Flathead still has many of the attributes that initially drew people here during high-activity periods.

"During the process of developing the Flathead County Growth Policy in 2006, residents cited abundant, clean water, beautiful views, recreation opportunities, personal freedoms, friendly people, minimal traffic and an affordable cost of living as just a few of the things they loved about the Flathead," the report states.

Since those attributes are still a magnet, the report noted that growth should be expected for 2014 and the future. The report referenced U.S. Census figures on the county's aging population – expected to add 7,729 seniors between 2010 and 2020, increasing the number of residents ages 65 and older from 13,223 to 20,952 – and said the county should expect more retirees.

Nearly every workload category increased at the FCPZ office in 2013. The office received 255 land use applications or violation complaints, a 30 percent increase over the previous year, and daily phone inquiries to the office increased 16 percent over 2012, to a total of 5,795, or roughly 23 calls per workday.

In 2013, the office collected $93,143.43 in fees, which is a 35 percent increase over 2012's fee collection. The 2013 fee schedule included buildings for lease or rent review, as well as review or re-review of an expired preliminary plat.

As for subdivisions, there were nine preliminary plats approved in 2013 – a 33 percent increase over 2012 – with a total of 63 lots and 56 RV spaces. There were eight projects totaling 40 lots that received final plat approval.

The planning office also devoted more energy to investigating code complaints, creating a code compliance technician position in 2012. Before the position was created, there was a backlog of complaints dating back to 2003.

Last year, the backlog was finally cleared. The office received and investigated 25 zoning complaints in 2013, along with 11 lake and lakeshore complaints, 25 community decay complaints and eight floodplain violation complaints.

Floodplain permit applications in 2013 went back to the same levels as 2009, the report stated, at 27.

Considerable administrative workload at the planning office was directed toward updating the floodplain maps and assisting the Flathead County Planning Board with its update process for the Flathead County Zoning Regulations.

The planning office also contributed money, along with other agencies, for an updated aerial map of the valley and getting it online.

The report also noted that there has been over $1 million allocated to Flathead County in Community Transportation Enhancement Program (CTEP) funds, and there are currently two bicycle/pedestrian paths being designed for construction sometime in 2014 – the Blacktail Road Trail and the Swan River Road Trail. As of the end of 2013, $40,000 had been spent on the planning for these two projects.

A third path, the Gateway to Glacier Trail is still in the administrative stage. All three projects will result in $1.5 million in federal funds.

For a copy of the 2013 annual report, visit the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Office or www.flathead.mt.gov/planning_zoning/downloads.php.
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Kellyn Brown
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Dillon Tabish
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