Amid water concerns, Missoula County approves Blue Mountain subdivision

The B&M Zoo Subdivision is slated for two phases on 13 acres of land, located at the center of the image above. (Google Earth)

Missoula County commissioners this week approved a 19-lot subdivision off Blue Mountain Road, taking note of local concerns over water quantity and the developer’s pledge to regulate its use.

The B&M Zoo Subdivision, planned by Gene Mostad for 13 vacant acres above the Peak Wellness Center off Highway 93, is scheduled in two phases, including 11 homes in Phase 1 and eight additional homes in Phase 2.

Approved 4-3 by the planning board last month, the project won the support of area property owners, including Bob Massey. The neighboring resident described the proposal as an improvement over the property’s existing condition, which has served as something of a dumping ground for construction refuse.

“I think it’s going to be a vast improvement to the area,” Massey said. “That has been a waste area for 20-some years. It’s been nothing but a problem for us out there with the weeds.”

Despite that support, Massey expressed concern over the safety of Blue Mountain Road as it pertains to bikers and runners heading to the nearby Blue Mountain recreation area.

Massey has asked the county to consider improvements to the road, including a possible trail to separate recreational users from the anticipated increase in traffic.

“In terms of the future of the area out there, I don’t know if there’s any money left in the (park) bond, but there’s a real need for a bike path or walkway off Highway 93 to the Blue Mountain recreation area,” said Massey. “That’s something the commissioners and the county ought to look into in the very near future to solve the problem before someone gets killed on that road.”

Massey, along with nearby resident Eric Anderson, also expressed concerns over the area’s quantity of water and the production of local wells. The subdivision will be served by a public water supply system fed by two wells drilled on the property’s eastern edge.

Residents said some existing wells in the area produce as little as three to four gallons a minute. Some fear that feeding an additional 18 residential homes could further draw down the system.

“Because there’s really no concrete evidence on how groundwater works out there, we don’t know if it’s going to cause an issue or not,” said Anderson. “We only know there’s some problem wells in the area.”

Paul Forsting of Territorial Landworks, who represents the developer, said Mostad helped build and develop the wastewater treatment system that supports the Peak Wellness Center. In doing so, he oversized the system to support his future development.

Forsting said a preliminary report was also sent to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to ensure water usage within the subdivision stays within its 10-acre-feet allotment. It’s calculated that each home will utilize the standard 250 gallons a day, meaning water use outside the home will require restrictions.

Forsting said each property can irrigate up to 3,600 square feet of yard under current calculations and still keep the development’s water usage below its allotment.

“There’s different ways to stay under that amount,” said Forsting. “We’ve talked about xeriscaping, and I think that’s what (Mostad) intends to do with most of the common area so it’s still attractive and doesn’t require much water.”

As for the yards within the development, Forsting said residents will be aware of the restrictions.

“You’re not going to get to irrigate your quarter-acre or half-acre parcel,” he said. “But that’s not uncommon for the area.”