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County approves rezoning for Gray’s Acres area

POLSON – Some residents of Gray’s Acres were pleased following a decision by the Lake County commissioners last week.

Ben Anciaux, who lives in the neighborhood affected by the change, filed an application on April 7 to rezone from medium to low-density residential the area between Eleventh and Thirteenth Avenues East bounded by Rivendell Court on the east and Ninth Street on the west. The commissioners unanimously approved the request on Aug. 9. 

Twenty-five of 33 property owners in the area supported the application, according to Gray’s Acres-area resident Scott Harmon. The owners of only one property, Steve and Polly Dupuis, protested.

Anciaux and his neighbors were attempting to preserve the area as one of mainly single family dwellings. With the change, multi-family dwellings are no longer permitted in the affected area. 

The Lake County Planning Department supported the zoning change. According to the staff report, the area is a checkerboard of county and city property. Land to the north and west is zoned medium-density residential, while land to the south and east is low-density.

Harmon said Gray’s Acres-area residents were spurred to action by two factors: multiplexes that currently exist on Eleventh Street East in Polson between Tenth and Seventh avenues and a request last year by developers Gehrand and Carol Bechard to build a subdivision on a vacant lot on the corner of Thirteenth Avenue East and Eleventh Street East. Although the Bechards’ land is zoned medium-density residential, the city commission nixed the subdivision on Jan. 4 after vigorous opposition from Anciaux and his neighbors. The applicants reportedly had plans to build several fourplexes in the area for use as affordable housing.

The commissioners discussed the Dupuises’ 49,000-square-foot lot before approving the zoning change. The Dupuises couldn’t be reached for comment, but Harmon said they were not trying to develop their lot but purchased it with the intention of doing so eventually.

Commissioner Dave Stipe said that lot could potentially be subdivided into four lots under the old medium-density zoning, but noted that it couldn’t be developed that way because it lacked the necessary services, namely water and sewer.

Commissioner Bill Barron said Polson City Manager Mark Shrives recently told him that the city isn’t extending water or sewer services to anyone outside of the city unless the property in question is annexed. “They’re very limited unless they’re annexed into the city,” Barron said of the Dupuises’ property. 

Barron also said he was torn about the rezoning because he is a strong supporter of property rights, but reluctantly supported it “because they probably can only put one dwelling there now.” 

“The infrastructure doesn’t support (medium-density residential zoning),” Commissioner Gale Decker said, adding that the character of the neighborhood was important too. 

On Oct. 6 last year, the county commissioners requested that the city annex the streets in the area, which are narrow and suffer from traffic congestion. Two street sections in the area are not currently maintained by either the city or county, according to County Planner Wade Humphries, who noted  that the area is uncurbed with few sidewalks. 

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