County approves Moonlight Basin development

Planning Board upholds 100-foot setback regulation

Preliminary plans for Moonlight Basin’s latest expansion were approved Oct. 13.

The Madison County planning board spent nearly a year reviewing the county’s subdivision regulations for Moonlight Basin’s new residential and commercial construction around Jack Creek Road. Inconsistencies in the regulations’ language regarding constructing near waterbodies paired with conservation concerns complicated and prolonged the assessment. The Madison County Commissioners unanimously approved a planned unit development for the Lee’s Pool Subdivision.

“The planning board made a point that they’re not going to deviate from the regulations,” Madison County Planning Director Alex Hogle said.

Moonlight Basin’s planned unit development for its Lee’s Pool Subdivision includes 66 residential units and a hotel with 96 room keys. Montana law requires local governments to set regulations for the development of subdivisions to ensure responsible residential growth. The state law specifies that a subdivision is to be avoided, if it involves unnecessary environmental degradation and risks people’s health and safety due to things like natural disasters, lack of water, access, transportation and drainage.

All plans for Lee’s Pool Subdivision, except its request to develop with a 40-foot setback from waterbodies, adhered to county regulations. Thirteen cabins were originally planned to be built on a strip of land between a perennial stream and a wetland-area, closer to the stream than the county allows.

Madison County requires a 100-foot setback from waterbodies, which echoes the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum recommendation. The EPA recommends all development to be at least 100 feet away from any waterbody for wildlife protection, which also minimizes potential sediment runoff that could impair the water. Potential sediment pollution to the water from development sources like septic tanks and wells are not an issue because the cabins will use Moonlight Basin’s mainlines for wastewater and water, according to Hogle.

“Everything will be sent out,” Hogle said.

Letters from nearby property owners and conservation groups, like Trout Unlimited, swarmed Moonlight Basin’s request to build some of the cabins as close as 40 feet from the stream. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks also disapproved of the 40-foot setback request.

Throughout the review process, neighboring property owners also expressed concerns for the wildlife corridor that the subdivision will intrude upon. But potential sediment pollution from construction was the last legal concern hindering the cabins’ development.

“We’re very comfortable with the decision,” Moonlight Basin representative Kevin Germain said.

According to Germain, the cabins that will not reach the county’s regulations will be constructed on intended open space within the subdivision.

Multiple residential developments are required by state law to pass subdivision review, but hotels are not. Montana has few laws regarding the locations of hotels.

“An important distinction of these cabins is they’re part of the hotel,” Hogle said. “They could have just built it, but they brought it in as part of the subdivision.”

Applying the Madison County’s subdivision regulations to Lee’s Pool Subdivision surfaced confusing areas in the regulations. The county formed a Subdivision Regulations Review Committee to clean up the language in the regulations, to update legislative changes and clarify language that could affect policy. Public comment will be involved in the process.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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