Quiet Village shot down by city council
Story and photo by, KATHLEEN GILLULY
The saga that began last spring with the Laurel Planning Board’s denial of approval for a mobile home court on a 30-acre section of property in east Laurel ended Tuesday night when the council voted 2-6 against the proposal to annex and subdivide the land The proposal had previously also been denied by Yellowstone County Commissioners. After that it was revamped and renamed and was approved by the planning board.
Although there were only three proponents for the development at Tuesdays public hearing, each of them had a financial stake in the outcome. Rob Morehead and Scott Aspenlieder are both on the development team and Nick Pancheau is the architect that designed their presentation. They repeated assurances that Quiet Meadows would not fall into the same state as Alder Ridge Estates, the mobile home court east of Yard Office Rd. and that they would address traffic and other issues later in the process.
“There are technical solutions to those problems,” Aspenlieder said. “We need approval from you in order to take that next step so we can bring you a full-blown subdivision plan.”
The first of 10 opponents to speak was Ron Benner. Benner, a member of the Laurel Planning Board was not allowed to speak or vote at the hearing held by the board in December, when the proposal did pass. He and Hazel Klein, a board member and realtor with an interest in selling the property, both abstained.
“Nice presentation,” Benner began. “But, it’s a pipe dream until we see the details.” Benner provided council members with photos from the Billings’ parks the developers were hoping to emulate, showing age-related decay. He also discussed safety issues particularly related to school children having access to safe places to walk. He pointed out a photo from Tuesday morning showing a traffic jam at E. Maryland Ln. and Washington Ave., and questioned how E. Maryland Ln., a private road, could handle more traffic, especially given there are no sidewalks for children on foot.
Dave Murja pointed out that the property doesn’t enjoin any city property at this point. He said the developers are just trying to take advantage of cheaper land than build somewhere more appropriate.
Other opponents cited the financial burden the development would have on the city, schools and the taxpayers.
Trevor Gibbs’ concern was for his third-grade child, who already is in an overcrowded classroom and doesn’t have a safe walkway to school.
That theme came up several times and Linda Filpula, Laurel Schools’ Superintendent said safety was a primary concern. Filpula said buses pick up students in Alder Ridge because there is no safe passage for them to walk. Residents of E. Maryland Ln. pointed out that their children don’t have safe route either, but have to walk. Laurel Schools are also currently over capacity, Filpula added.
Greg Hafner who has been a resident of Laurel for 38 years said there are too many unanswered questions to approve the application.
“We were promised Alder Ridge was going to be beautiful too,” he said.
Several council members echoed that concern during their discussion.
“I am for annexation but not for the zone change,” said Councilman Chuck Dickerson. He also said he had heard the same presentation years ago when Alder Ridge was being developed.
Councilman Bruce McGee said, “What this council needs is facts,” and he proceeded to supply them, reading from city zoning ordinances. He concluded that the development, “doesn’t meet the criteria for a zone change.” He also took exception with the comparison the developers were making to Shiloh Village, as it was a HUD project and probably had special dispensation.
“Why aren’t developers here trying to make a residential 7,500 development?” he asked.
Councilman Tom Nelson said the plan wasn’t in compliance with the city’s growth policy.
Rick Herr and Bill Mountsier voted for the development. Scot Stokes, Doug Poehls, Tom Nelson, Chuck Dickerson, Bruce McGee and Emilie Eaton voted against the development.