Missoula County asks USFS to include local policies in Holland Lake permit
(Missoula Current) With the Flathead National Forest considering a special-use permit for a controversial project at Holland Lake, Missoula County is asking the federal agency to include a provision requiring the developer to comply with local building and land-use policies.
Commissioners on Thursday signed a letter to Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele, citing community concerns over the regulatory review of the Holland Lake project, which could include an expansion of the lakeside lodge.
Among other things, the county is asking the Forest Service for a more transparent process and deeper public engagement.
“It requests a specific time frame for public comment on any permit the Forest Service might choose to issue through its process,” said county CAO Chris Lounsbury.
Specifically, the county is asking the Forest Service to include a minimum 60-day window for public comment as it considers issuing a permit to POWDR – the company looking to expand the lodge.
The county also is asking the Forest Service to include a minimum 60-day public comment period surrounding any changes in ownership, management or site modifications.
“The Missoula Board of County Commissioners continues to hear concerns from a diverse range of constituents regarding public engagement and regulatory review of proposed changes at Holland Lake Lodge,” the county's letter states. “Many of the concerns have also expressed questions about whether proposed changes to Holland Lake Lodge are in the public interest.”
The lodge property sits on roughly 10 acres of Forest Service land thanks to a special use permit. As a result, POWDR's proposed project must receive agency approval.
As the Forest Service considers the permit, Missoula County is asking the agency to include a provision that would make any project subject to the county's building codes, health codes and land-use regulations.
Lounsbury said that under federal law, any permit would have to comply with local health and sanitation regulations. But because the project sits on Forest Service land, it would not have to comply with local building codes and other land-use issues.
It would be up to the Forest Service to include those in its permit.
“The county doesn't have any ability, other than this letter, to request these things,” Lounsbury said. “The Forest Service would have to agree to allow us to ask for these permits. They'd have to write into their special-use permit a provision that says POWDR has to comply with building codes and land-use polices if they're going to be applicable on Forest Service property.”