The Bitterroot Resort has yet to submit their subdivision application to the Missoula County Office of Planning and Grants, but the size and scope of the expected application is already creating some waves.
County officials don’t know when the developers will have an application ready for submission, said Bill Carey, Missoula County commissioner. “There’s really nothing to begin work on yet,” Carey said.
However, he’s sure that the application will be enormous and will require not only county agencies, but also state agencies to work together on processing all the aspect of the applications.
“I think (agency cooperation) is going to be very important because the magnitude of this thing is going to be huge,” he said. “I think we’ll be breaking new ground with whatever we do.”
The Bitterroot Resort’s subdivision application, just like any other, will go through a myriad of agencies, which will recommend changes and sign-off on mitigation proposals.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will look at the impacts to wildlife and habitat. Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will look at water rights and possibly dangers from wildfire. The local fire departments, school district, and sheriff offices will all get input.
The county planning board will review the subdivision based on recommendations by the planning department. The board will consider impacts, hold public meeting and eventually send up a recommendation to the Missoula County Board of Commissioners, who have the final say on approval.
Currently the Bitterroot Resort has applied for two applications with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. One is for drilling test wells and another is for discharging 400,000 gallons of wastewater a day, said DEQ subdivision review director, Steve Kilbreath.
Kilbreath admits the amount of wastewater is enormous, but it’s also on par with a 2,000-unit development, which is about the size officials expect in the Bitterroot Resort application. As a rule of thumb the average dwelling discharges about 200 gallons of wastewater per day.
As a number, 400,000 gallons a day is hard to understand. It’s enough wastewater to cover more than an acre of ground a foot deep. A 2,000-unit development would be bigger than Darby and Stevensville combined.
Tom Maclay, developer of the Bitterroot Resort, has long stated that the wastewater treatment facilities at the resort will be “state of the art.” He has also said he intends to use treated wastewater to irrigate the planned 18-hole golf course.
As far as transportation goes, Maclay has also expressed interest in a mass transit system to service the resort, which could include both busses and trains.
But as of yet, none of these ideas have been clearly outlined for Missoula County to consider and likely won’t be until a subdivision application is submitted.
As Mea Andrews of the Missoulian reported last week transportation to the development, which could generate enough traffic on Highway 93 to require freeway-style road access, is already a big concern for the Montana Department of Transportation.
The DEQ hasn’t seen a full application yet and won’t unless the subdivision is approved. At that point all the drinking water, storm water and wastewater issues will be reviewed, he said.
“Approval is not a foregone conclusion you have to demonstrate to us that you can do what it is you’re asking to do and meet all our standards,” Kilbreath said.
Typically, bigger subdivisions applications go through three to five iterations before they’re approved, he said. Basically if the water isn’t there in the aquifer or can’t be discharged adequately, then something must be done for the DEQ to sign off. That could mean decreasing the size of the development.
Maclay isn’t sure when a subdivision application will be submitted to the Missoula County Office of Planning and Grants.
His team of experts working on the application includes WGM consulting in Missoula. The application is in a refining process, Maclay said.
“There’s no reason to hold ourselves to a timeline,’ he said. “It’s a matter of working through the best process.”