STEVENSVILLE — The Stevensville Town Council is green lighting a controversial subdivision on the edge of town, but with the council failing to reach an agreement on how to ease the impacts of the big project. The council split its vote last night over the proposed Burnt Fork Estates, which aims to develop one of the largest single subdivisions in the Bitterroot in several years on a 57-acre tract.
Councilman Dempsey Vick continued to lead the charge against approval, noting the strong opposition from not only residents of nearby Creekside Meadows, but also business owners and others who objected to the density and locating commercial development outside of downtown.
"And, as far as I'm concerned, the majority of the people right now do not want this subdivision in there," Vick said. "The people here, the people that drive the growth for our town. And they should be able to have a say on whether or not on how something looks, in my opinion."
"Sometimes they really don't have a say in that decision and I'm struggling with that. Because this is one of those times," stated Councilwoman Jaime Devlin, who had been critical of the project throughout the hearings, but had recently acknowledged what she called a change in attitudes about the project as the developers modified the original plans.
Councilman Paul Luddington, who was on council when Creekside Meadows was approved nearly 20-years ago, told his colleagues the council's powers were limited by state law.
"We have to understand, as a community and as a town, that we can not unreasonably restrict a land owner's ability to develop land."
Mayor Brandon Dewey reminded the council the developers have pursued Burnt Fork Estates for a year, well beyond the 80-days for approval outlined in town policies. Both he and Luddington worried about the city having to reimburse the developer's fees, or getting into a lengthy court fight.
The council did attach conditions for issues like traffic and stormwater mitigation, but still couldn't reach consensus, with Luddington and Patrick Shourd voting "yes", Vick "no" and Devlin deciding to abstain.
The council will have different opportunities to add conditions as the project is phased in over the next 10-years, and there remain questions about developers being able to get all the permits they'll need before homes can be constructed.