Illegal trailer at Holland Lake reveals county permit violations
(Missoula Current) A group opposed to the expansion of Holland Lake Lodge is asking why a mobile home trailer is still on the lodge property a month after the Flathead National Forest ordered it removed.
During an update to the Seeley Lake Community Council on Monday night, Bill Lombardi, spokesman for the nonprofit Save Holland Lake, said his organization requested in March to be allowed to comment on whether POWDR, the Utah-based luxury ski resort corporation, should be allowed to take over the special-use permit for the Holland Lake Lodge. But little has happened over the past month.
However, Save Holland Lake members have noted that an illegal mobile home still sits on the property. In his April 12 response to Save Holland Lake, Flathead National Forest supervisor Kurt Steele said he’d withdrawn his amendment to the special-use permit, which had authorized POWDR to drill two wells and move a four-unit modular home onto the lodge property. He said he also told POWDR to promptly remove any temporary buildings or storage facilities.
Lombardi said POWDR was in Missoula a month ago to meet with the Missoula Economic Partnership and Missoula County Commissioner Juanita Vero. But they did nothing with the trailer.
The mobile home is still sitting on wheels. All POWDR needs to do is connect it to a pull-trailer and haul it away, said engineer David Roberts of Save Holland Lake.
On Tuesday, Lombardi emailed Steele, saying he’d talked to District Ranger Chris Dowling about the trailer and that “Mr. Dowling said he was meeting this morning with Beth Pargman (of the Flathead Forest Holland Lake Lodge team) and that he would inform me of what action will be taken. I trust that that is the case.”
Lombardi received an answer late Wednesday from Dowling who said POWDR's removal deadline is May 15.
After digging into details of the Holland Lake buildings, including the trailer, Roberts said the Forest Service isn't the only authority for the property. Missoula County and Montana Department of Environmental Quality also have some oversight power with Holland Lake Lodge.
Knowing this, Save Holland Lake sent a letter to DEQ on Monday providing various sources of evidence showing that the sewage lagoons at Holland Lake are leaking, suggesting they could be polluting the groundwater and potentially the lake itself.
Save Holland Lake still waiting for Forest Service information from another Freedom of Information Act request they submitted a month ago.
“The simplest evidence is we took pictures of it in September at the end of the season and went back up last week after melt-out and the pond levels are lower,” Roberts said. “Typically, the pond levels wouldn’t have decreased over the winter season this year.”
Meanwhile, even though the lodge is on federal land, Missoula County has oversight of construction permits.
For example, one reason the trailer is still on wheels is POWDR applied to the county to connect the trailer into the septic system by way of the caretaker’s cabin. Roberts told the Seeley Lake Community Council the permit hasn’t been released yet.
But when he looked into that, Roberts found in the Missoula County records several other violations on the property.
In a January 2019 Notice of Building Code Violation, the county said that five permits had expired and that construction work had not received inspection or approval and “unsafe or unsanitary conditions may exist.” Four years later, the violations haven’t been corrected. The permits were for the caretaker’s cabin, including plumbing, gas lines, a chimney and the cabin itself, which was built in 2008 without written permission. A well was also drilled for the cabin without permission, according to various documents.
“The plan was to attach (the trailer) to the septic system by way of the owner’s cabin, which hasn’t been checked off,” Roberts said.
Finally, the county is responsible for enforcing its lakeshore protection plan. Roberts said the protection plan prohibits projects or changes that would mar the aesthetics of a lake’s view shed.
“I think anybody who saw that (proposed management) plan would have a hard time arguing that they aren’t affecting the aesthetics of the lake,” Roberts said.
The POWDR proposal would have cut several trees and added several buildings to the property along with a dock.
“There are direct intersection points the county can make that would make this very hard to move forward as proposed,” Roberts said.
Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at firstname.lastname@example.org