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Photos by Mark Maher.

Tom Maclay Shows Off First Home At Bitterroot Resort

The first home in the development of Bitterroot Resort is finished and the owner, Tom Maclay, hopes the rest of the development is a blending of the Old West values with New West ideals.

Maclay is the developer of the Bitterroot Resort, which, should it come to fruition as he plans, will be the biggest destination ski resort in North America and shuttle skiers from the floor of the Bitterroot Valley to the top of Lolo Peak on the edge of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.

And while the swirling controversy continues surrounding the resort and its effects on the communities of western Montana, Friday was a time for the public to see Maclay’s new home on the northwest portion of the property planned to be developed for the resort. The home offers the public a glimpse of just what kind of home and style the housing side of the Bitterroot Resort could offer.

The development plans for the Bitterroot Resort are being finalized, but Maclay anticipates 2,400 dwelling units total at the resort and about 10 percent of those would be single-family homes. The majority of the remaining dwelling units would be condominium and townhouse style.

The final applications for the development have yet to be submitted to Missoula County, Maclay said.

Maclay’s strategy to develop his 3,000 acre ranch and the adjoining National Forest has hit some resistance with a portion of the public in the Bitterroot and Missoula Valleys as well as the Bitterroot and Lolo National Forests, which have already turned down one special use permit request from Maclay. He needs the permit to use public land and the majority of the Bitterroot Resort ski area would be developed on National Forest Land in areas designated for limited, non-developed recreation. The Forest Service has extended the public comment period on the Forest Plan Revision until September 7. At Maclay’s home Friday, he had petitions available for people to sign that support developed recreation for the Carlton Ridge and Lolo Peak area. Under the current draft of the Forest Plan Revision that area would be for primitive and semi-primitive use only.

But the ski resort is only partly about skiing. Condominiums, a walking villiage, a golf course and high-end single-family houses provide the money and part of the infrastructure for such a development. Maclay’s home epitomizes this sentiment, with expansive living areas, high-class views of the valley and luxurious furnishing.

Maclay opened his 5,500 square foot home to the public as part of the Bitterroot Builders Association’s tour of homes. Though the style of the home is indicative of what Maclay wants for all aspects of his development, the size of the structure is not. Most dwellings at the Bitterroot Resort would be 1,600 to 3,200 square feet, he said.

The long road up to the home traced through open fields and along ridges. If the resort goes as planned this road will be lined with fairways and tee boxes.

Near the house, the road snaked into a thicket of large pine trees. Maclay says the house’s location blends in with the landscape well enough that it can only be seen from two places on Highway 93. And even then you have to know exactly where to look.

The home was designed by Kibo Group Architecture of Missoula and built by Hutton Fine Builders of Florence. The large, squared Douglas fir logs were processed in the Bitterroot Valley and nearly all of the construction materials were purchased locally, said builder Jeff Hutton.

The design is a true blend of the old and new techniques, Hutton said. The joints for the squared, rough-cut logs are dovetailed together in a traditional style.

“This is the way they built log homes a hundred years ago,” he said proudly.

But inside, the modern world creeps in with a big screen television, sound system and energy efficient appliances.

The blending of the Old and New West and the way they can exist together is shown through artwork in the large open living and dining room, Maclay said Friday, while he stood in the room looking out over the northern Bitterroot Valley viewed in glimpses through the tops of the ponderosa pines in his back yard.

George Gogas paintings line the walls. His early, simple watercolors represent the Old West, Maclay said. Gogas’ newer, Picasso-inspired works demonstrate a new idea and interpretation of the West.

The home was also built with energy efficiency in mind, said Jill Clapperton, Maclay’s partner.

The tiled floors have radiant heat, which will help the home hold its temperature in the winter, while keeping it cooler in the summer. All the appliances are energy efficient and the home it self uses natural materials on the outside, which allow it to blend into the landscape. This home is the example the Maclays want set as they look forward to the rest of the resort development.

“This is about human landscape ecology,” Jill said.

They weren’t interested in promoting homes that wouldn’t fit into the landscape. So their home sets the model for how future homes in the resort would be built fit in with the surroundings, she said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Jill Clapperton.

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  1. Let’s get real about this resort, instead of writing advertising designed to look like a blog entry.

    Maclay’s resort isn’t going to provide any affordable homes to residents of this valley – even if he ‘plans’ 1,600 to 3,200 square foot homes (and how does he propose to do that?). He is hoping for a resort, and as such, most of those homes are going to be 2nd and 3rd homes (certainly one of the trends, overall, of the region). Probably a few will go to a local builder or contractor or two – and one’s that are in his favor, at that. It’ll be fine to sell of a few lots to ‘populate’ the place, but the subsequent sale of those homes (one he gets rolling – IF he gets rolling) will be in the big $ pricing range.

    And the fact that his first ‘spec’ house is nearly double the maximium of his ‘proposed’ house sizes has me wondering about his sincerity.

    If he is planning on 2,400 units, and you are telling us that he plans on only 10% of those being single-family dwellings means that we’ll have that viewshed filled with pretty little condominiums. 2,100 of them. At 4 or 5 to a structure, there’ll be 400 to 500 of them dotting the hillside. How nice.

    And where do all of those cars go? (4 trips average per day, 1.75 cars-per-unit-average, etc…just check some engineering books. Those estimates would be extremely conservative.)

    And one thing I’ve been wondering all along is how he thinks this thing is actually going to reach ‘resort’ status? He’s got a lovely view of a highway – which WILL expand, eventually. He’s got the lovely tourist destination of Lolo just up the road (no offense intended, but the strip there isn’t exactly something to attract tourists, nor is it set-up as an area anything like downtown Whitefish or Bozeman or Jackson Hole) Just where are these ‘tourists’ going to walk around and shop and eat and drink?

    Any resort I think of is nestled from the view of the highway, and has a nice little downtowny-town nearby for the people to visit.

    And he doesn’t have any snow. Oh, he can make it – just because he’s at the top of the water rights food chain, I guess. But what will that do to agricultural uses elsewhere? And skiers just love machine-made snow. I know I do.

    Maclay might ‘get’ his resort, but will the buying public (local or out of state) ever get it? I doubt it.

  2. If you build it, they will buy vacation homes…

  3. homes – any – yes, you build it, they will come. But a resort? I just don’t think so. A resort encompasses a whole bunch of things (at least in most places) – restaurants, hotel or two, spa, condo rentals, recreational opportunities, shopping. I just don’t see it.

    Perhaps he’s putting out a ‘I will build a resort’ strategy to get 2400 units of housing approved where elsewise they might not?

    Do you see the ‘resort’ part of Maclay’s viable?

  4. 2,400 houses on 3,000 acres? Sounds more like a termite colony than a resort community. Don’t count on local “planning” or “zoning” helping here. First, we don’t have any in the Bitterroot. Second, if ballot initiatve I-154 passes in November, it won’t do any good to ever have any anywhere in Montana. Here’s the deal: If Missoula County turns down the resort’s maxed-out proposal and asks the backers (the guys funding Tom Mac) to reduce the density or other offensive parts of the proposal, guess what happens under I-154? The developers will claim government is stealing their property and Missoula County will be required to pay the difference in claimed value between the Tokyo-like, termite-colony version of the development, and something that will be smaller (albeit still a really bad idea). And then guess what? The county won’t pay the millions to cover the extortion, er, I mean “takings claim,” and so it will have to waive any regulations that restricts the resort from doing what it wants any where it wants, as long as, according to I-154 — and I am not making this up — the venture does’t include acknowledged public nuisances such as “nude dancing,” and criminal activity. Read I-154 folks. Get past the crap about eminent domain and government stealing our home. It’s a radical anti-government takings initiative that wil turn Montana upside down. And for goshakes, don’t vote for the damn thing. On another note….let’s get real about the idea of having a ski resort on the Maclay Ranch, which I lived next to for many years and tried mightily to find skiiable conditions above, even during “good” snow years. Reality check: it’s hard to have a ski area without snow. It’s hard to “make snow” at 3,300 feet to ensure you have snow at a base area, and you don’t have a destination resort with $60 lift tickets if you have mud instead of snow at the condiminiums. I mean, who wants mud on their Gucci mukluks? Who wants to pay 60 bones to ski on a ski run comprised of man-made ice the thickness of one-inch CDX plywood? (interspersed with…mud!). Hell, you can pay $24 bucks and go to Lost Trail and ski the real stuff. Looking at the new “runs” on the Maclay Ranch last winter was all the information any potential investor would need if deciding whether or not to invest in a ski resort. Most of the winter the runs looked like, well, let me see here, how about Marshall Mountain? Or, perhaps any old Plum Creek clearcut at low elevation in the spring. Only a complete fool would invest in a destination ski resort with a base area at 3,300 in Montana in an era of global warming. Maclay may have water rights (and, by the way, his rights aren’t as good as claimed), but he can’t suspend the laws of physics. Ya can’t make snow when your night temperatures are above 32 F. The Bitterroot Resort proposal is a real estate development project, nothing else. The concept of a “destination” ski resort is a come-on for increasing property value to attract investors in second homes who are a little challenged in the area of doing due diligence. The guys backing Tom Maclay will own his ranch and its developable potential, if they don’t already. They’re not fools. They’re just greedy. And smart.

  5. Nice place from what we can see by the close in shots of details. My question is will these place be further blights on the landscape by their placement in the landscape? Are they further examples of “western mcmansions” standing out on the hills like giant phallic monuments to the wealth of the few?
    Is this a thoughtful subdivision that preserves at least a visual sense of open space by tucking clusters of homes into vallys and edges of meadows or is it something that will be a rash spreading across the land like the invading weed species that has blighted the Bitterroot.
    I spent 15 years working and living in and around Eugene, Oregon. Missoula is much like Eugene was in the 70’s and early 80’s. I watched as big money moved in from a variety of sources and the place boomed with developement changing the charecter of the place and community. Im afraid that the same thing is happening here. I dont get a polorized sense of class in Missoula that I saw develop there. I personally dont see massive development catering to the very wealthy as a benefit to the broad diversity of class and income that makes Missoula such as interesting place to live and work.
    Rick Sherman

  6. Dear New West Network,
    In the above article you have quotes from Jill Maclay[Tom Maclay’s wife]. Interesting? My name is Lynn Maclay and I am still, Tom’s wife. Just a clarification.Thanks.

  7. Last night I sent you an email clarifying Tom Maclay’s wife’s name. I am Tom’s wife. The Jill that you quoted in the article is Jill Clapperton, Tom’s girlfriend. I did not make the quotes in your article, Jill Clapperton did.

  8. Lynn,

    Thanks for the clarification. The correction has been noted in the story.

    Courtney Lowery
    Managing Editor

  9. Wealthy people; you have to love their arrogance and drive to make yet another dollar at the expense of the lower income bracket and the environment. Hey Maclay, we’re all only here for a short time and you can’t take it with you! And, by the way, those ski runs look hideous! Have fun dealing with the state to try and change the water rights use from agriculture to commercial! Thats if you successfully litigate the forest revision, which, by the way, I serously doubt if you will. Happy capitalism!

  10. Cameron Armstrong

    There is much I would like to say.. However most of this is directed to Mr. Bell. Son, you sadly, are one of those humans that not only should be banned from ascociating with our great nation wich owes its success and ascoiated luxuries to capitalism, but trully, also should be prohibited from reproduction within our borders as well. It is your niave and ignorent thought process which are representative of those witch threaten our countries unity and patriotism. Some of us are predisposed to succeed in life. Such is the case with Mr. Maclay. Many more of us are destined to live out pointless, impactless lives absent of wealth. This is the situation that you have found yourself in. Do not hold those in potentious positions acountable for their achievments by getting so upset and not justifying your anger with systematic reasoning. You see, it is your right to be upset that you are not wealthy or in the position to make prestigious aquantences and business deals. Unfortunately, when you do not have sensible reasons for your anger, your claims and opinions are dismissed as uncredible and childish. Hopefully this will give you and the radicals a better idea of how to combat isues of butthurtness in the future, as this matter is now in the hands of the elite and far out of your influence at this point. It can be noted that the radicals had lost the battle for this peak the moment you were all identified and stereotyped as hippies. For hippies had lost thier voice in our society when it was realized that they are simply a band of hippocrits eager to demonstrate how ungreatfull they are to be affiliated with such a bountifull super power. Good Luck!! and happy neoradicallibralism!

  11. First thing Cameron, I’m not your son.

    Second, lets make one thing perfectly clear here. Being Wealthy is not everyones goal in life. Believe it or not Cameron some folks find that the important things in life actually can’t be bought. Some actually find wealth deplorable. Folks like you confuse this with jealousy because you cant fathom the thought of money NOT being the center of the universe.

    Cameron Wrote:
    “as this matter is now in the hands of the elite and far out of your influence at this point.”

    Actually Cameron, a VAST majority of Missoulians recognize whats at stake here in developing this ski resort, not just “hippies”. Furthermore, this is public land we’re talking about which means its a public process. Your “wealthy” and “elite” ass has no more say than mine.

    Fear not Cameron, rich, shallow people just like you will continue to degrade and devalue the quality of life in Montana by developing other pristine places such as Carlton Ridge. As a result there will be fewer hunting and fishing oppurtunities for my children than there where for me. It is my duty to fight people like you and try to prevent that from happening.

    Now your not just pissing off hippies, your pissing off sportsmen. When you run against the grain of sportsmen in this state you fight a loosing battle. Who do you think stopped the Bush administration from drilling the front range? Definately not the “hippies”.

    Cameron, you and compassionless, greedy people like you are the real threat to the Montana way of life and the future of this country.

  12. I am looking for some investers or just guidence, I am opening a nudist classy. resort!!! I would love established owners selling or just want to invest and sit back and see multimillions come to life do you know of anyone intrested??????

  13. Hey Tom,

    Are any prints available of the Gogas Judith Basin Encounter paintings, particularly “Charlie and Pablo Had a Drink Together”?

  14. toronto condominiums

    those ski runs look hideous! Have fun dealing with the state to try and change the water rights use from agriculture to commercial!