A Stevensville Planning and Zoning Board review of the application for a subdivision to be built at the corner of Logan Lane and Middle Burnt Fork Road on the East side of Stevensville is set for January 6. The name of the subdivision is Burnt Fork Estates.
According to the developer’s Proposal:
“The developer is proposing to develop the 57.68-acre tract of the former Ellison Cattle Company to create 77 single-family lots adjacent to Creekside Meadows and 44 multifamily lots further to the south. For the 8 acres adjacent to Middle Burnt Fork Road the developer is proposing to re-zone the property to allow 16 light commercial lots. The project is proposed to be developed in as many as 6 phases.” This represents, to me, housing for as many as 220 families which I do not believe Stevensville is ready for given our water issues alone.
First, I am not a Traffic Engineer. I have served as a peace officer for 15 years. My basic police training was gained with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. I hold a A.A., a B.S., and a Masters in Criminal Justice Administration, am a Graduate of the National Traffic Management Institute and the FBI National Academy, have served as an Adjunct Professor of Police Science and have worked as a consultant to police departments. I hope those credentials will provide some evidence that my opinion may be of some value.
As a former Law Enforcement Officer, I would like to address one issue that, in my opinion, the Planning and Zoning Board will address. It is essentially a “Perfect Storm” in the making.
Logan Lane between Eastside Highway and Middle Burnt Fork is currently a dangerous stretch of roadway. Middle Burnt Fork and Logan Lane has at this time an above average crash rate, even based on the developer’s Traffic consultant’s report.
At the present time, vehicles traveling south on Eastside eHighway are often racing the oncoming Eastside Highway traffic to get through the intersection of Logan Lane and Eastside eHighway. Some vehicles are almost airborne at high speed going through the intersection. Some vehicles are racing through this intersection and flying past the entrance to Creekside Drive at speeds approaching or exceeding 70 mph. There have been many close calls in front of Creekside Meadows subdivision.
The proposed Burnt Fork Estates subdivision, as planned, would add another exit onto Logan Lane between Creekside Drive and Middle Burnt Fork Road. With such a high concentration of added traffic generated by as many as 220 families and a commercial strip, the new traffic on Logan Lane will significantly increase the dangers of high speed crashes on Logan Lane and the intersections.
Ravalli County Road and Bridge Department estimates a minimum of 25-percent increase in traffic volume on Logan Lane versus the developer’s estimate of 10-percent and 20-percent. My common sense and experience causes me to estimate an increase of at least 50-percent over time when you factor in the increasing population to the south and east of Stevensville and the traffic to and from Missoula.
Logan Lane has no shoulders and is relatively narrow. These type roads are especially hazardous to young distracted drivers, and those are on the increase. 35-percent of highway fatalities of young drivers are the result of rollover accidents. Generally, they are very often caused by distracted drivers running off road then over correcting, which causes the rollover. This can often be caused by dodging traffic and animals. Often the young are not using seat belts and are ejected through the windshield or through doors which are flown open. I remember far too often having to knock on doors in the middle of the night to pass along terrible news to parents as a result of crashes on narrow county roads. Logan Lane needs widening and other improvements to reduce the chances of these accidents and it also needs a lot of work at the intersection of Logan Lane and Eastside Highway.
It is reasonable to assume that all the new traffic pulling onto Logan Lane from the proposed subdivision will create more conflict with speeding and distracted drivers thus increasing the chances of Logan Lane crashes.
I have lived near this intersection for nearly six years and have yet to witness any law enforcement agency working radar or making any effort at traffic control. The responsibility for traffic control on Logan Lane does not rest with the Stevensville Police Department, as Logan Lane is not in the town limits.
That leaves the Montana Highway Patrol and the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Department. As a former sheriff, I assure you the sheriff’s department has a host of other activities to perform that most citizens are not even aware of. Suffice it to say, that no increased traffic enforcement should be expected from the Ravalli County Sheriff. This is not a criticism. To the contrary, it is just a realistic expectation based on several years experience performing the duties of a sheriff with a limited budget and a multitude of functions to perform.
The Montana Highway Patrol is also spread thin. It is possible that agency might be persuaded to direct more attention to Logan Lane, however, I have been advised that previous requests have not produced results.
According to the latest town staff report, paragraph 14, “The developer shall pay to the Town of Stevensville $300/lot for payment of future off-site traffic related improvements as a result of the capacity being consumed by the proposed development. Payment shall be in conjunction with each phase of the project.”
Does this $300 to the Town of Stevensville make any sense to anyone? First, if you believe that the necessary traffic improvements needed to address related traffic issues and road improvements on Logan Lane and Middle Burnt Fork can be paid for with $300 per lot, I have some ocean front property in Arizona I would like to sell you! Even the $300 per lot would be submitted in phases? Try building a road that way! Road construction is expensive. Logan Lane improvements will be expensive and furthermore is a Ravalli County function, not a Stevensville function. I hope the Ravalli County Road and Bridge management and county commissioners, and county taxpayers have their eyes on this proposed subdivision and are asking the necessary questions to know the potential cost to taxpayers of this ill-advised subdivision.
The citizens of Stevensville and Ravalli County should know up front in clear language exactly what they will be forced to sacrifice and pay for, so that these developers can build this high density subdivision and leave town with their profits.
I urge all interested taxpayers to let the Stevensville Planning and Zoning Board, the Stevensville Town Council and the Ravalli County Commissioners know of your concerns and demand answers. If readers can attend the upcoming Planning and Zoning Board meeting electronically, I urge you do so. Make comments and ask questions using the method allowed by the Town of Stevensville. You won’t like th e phone in or Zoom style of meeting, but do your best to “attend,” and offer your opinions. This issue is a “Perfect Storm” waiting to blow into Stevensville.