Developer sues county for thwarting subdivision

October 4, 2018

A Whitefish-based development company that planned to subdivide an area at Montana Raceway Park has sued the Flathead County commissioners for rejecting a proposed residential development.

Thornton Motorsports LLC wanted to build a 57-lot subdivision on the 40-acre property that includes the acreage where the race track currently is located. The company also had asked for a zone change from agricultural to residential zoning and wanted a planned-unit development overlay on the entire property that would allow density of one dwelling unit per half-acre.

The lawsuit alleges the commissioners’ denial of Thornton Motorsports’ application was an abuse of discretion and constituted a final decision. It also said the commissioners ignored substantial credible evidence that addressed concerns about access and infrastructure. It also alleged the decision was “random, unreasonable and seemingly unmotivated.”

In addition, Thornton Motorsports said the decision violated its equal protection rights. It also argued that another business received approval for a recreational vehicle park in the county despite similar circumstances, and asserted many members of the public were against the RV park, but none had opposed the planned development on the Raceway Park property.

Thornton Motorsports is seeking monetary damages, a reversal of the decision and a conditional approval of the application.

According to a previous Daily Inter Lake story, the county commissioners voted against the subdivision in March by a 2-1 count.

Two of three commissioners, Gary Krueger and Phil Mitchell, voted against the plan because they said they wanted a firm plan for a road access to Church Drive.

Commissioner Pam Holmquist felt a primary access to U.S. 93 across from Schrade Lane would be adequate.

Marc Liechti of APEC Engineering, representing Thornton Motorsports, told the commissioners at that time his client was amenable to either the Church Drive or Schrade Road extension for the primary access. After negotiations with the affected property owners, however, there was a verbal commitment for an easement to Church Drive, but not a signed agreement.

At that point, the denial of the preliminary plat would have sent the project back through the planning review process if the developer intended to continue.

During a hearing Sept. 25, Flathead District Court Judge Dan Wilson set the schedule for further proceedings, including a non-jury trial for the court term beginning July 22, 2019.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 406-758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com

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