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Ridgewater development gets 1-year extension

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POLSON — The Polson City Commission approved another extension for the mixed-use Ridgewater development’s master plan/preliminary plat last week, this time for one year. 

That came on the heels of two extensions approved earlier this year, the first for six months and the second for two months. 

The vote to approve the extension was unanimous, but not without substantial discussion. 

The development, which was originally named Cougar Ridge, has been around 12 years, developer Mike Maddy said. 

“A lot of stuff has happened over the past 10 years that prevented us from doing anything,” he said, referring to the economy and the Great Recession. 

He noted that he has no desire to change the master plan, but just wants to “clean up” the wording of some of its 48 conditions. “A lot of them are out-of-date,” he said. 

The development, which is set to open the Polson Landing affordable housing project in early December, has been generating controversy for some time according to some local residents. 

A couple of the issues brought up at the Oct. 16 meeting involve access to the development and sewer capacity for future phases. 

Jan Howlett, who was recently appointed to the city commission, started off by questioning Maddy about access and a “big business office” at the site, which is located on Ridgewater Drive across U.S. Highway 93 from Walmart. 

Mayor Heather Knutson said those issues weren’t part of the preliminary plat approval process, but it didn’t stop others from delving into them during public comment. 

“We can only approve or not approve an extension with the current conditions,” she said. “The developer can ask to change conditions.”

Margie Hendricks talked about a traffic report from 2004 that said the development would have two access roads. 

“It’s obvious there’s a hell of a lot of confusion,” Sid Rundell said. “The cast of characters has changed over time.” 

Local businessman Ken Avison spoke in favor of the extension. 

Susan B. Swimley, a Bozeman attorney the city hired to provide counsel about Ridgewater earlier this year, had recommended the city not approve an additional extension for the 313-lot development. She noted that the master plan calls for two egress/ingress roads and said the platted lots do not clearly align with the 2005 plan.

The main access is on Ridgewater Drive. On Monday, Oct. 23, City Manager Mark Shrives said that Violet Lane, which connects U.S. Highway 93 with Red Lion Inn & Suites, is another access but is not built to the city’s standards. A second access that would extend Ridgewater Drive and connect with the Hillcrest area is planned for the future. Ten phases have been approved so far in the development, including seven commercial, two residential and one mixed-use (Polson Landing), he said. 

According to a city committee report, a sewer solution would need to be figured out before any new development at Ridgewater could occur as the Montana Department of Environmental Quality will not approve any new sewer flows through a lift station located on the south side of Montana Highway 35 near Murdoch’s. 


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