Flathead Residential Lots : Room for 65,000 More


Twenty-six thousand lots are approved for homes in Flathead County. It’s a massive amount – enough new elbow room for roughly 65,000 additional residents. At face value it conjures up metropolitan images: smog, traffic and other urban delights.

Of the public officials and real estate agents who pay attention to the numbers, few are panicking. Many view the glut of lots as little more than an artificial number, suggesting the vast majority will remain undeveloped farmland for years, even decades.

To be sure, there is some concern. The number of lots could affect the real estate market and attract transplants before the county infrastructure and government services are in place to support them.

The 26,000 vacant residential lots in Flathead County don’t include those waiting to be developed in the county’s cities, which abide by different rules, like requirements to pay for curbs, gutters and sewers up front. In the cities, speculation also runs less rampant.

“In Kalispell, we have expectations that development should pay for itself,” Kalispell Planning Director Tom Jentz said. “Kalispell is not looking over its shoulder.”

And while planners in other counties agree Flathead’s number of undeveloped lots is high, they have few numbers with which to compare it.

Several counties, including Missoula, Gallatin and Ravalli, had no tally of vacant residential lot numbers on hand. In Southwest Montana’s Madison County, where the population is 7,500, there are 9,000 lots lying in wait according to Planning Director Doris Fisher. “It could represent a major change in our landscape,” she said of the surplus.

The key word, in Madison and Flathead, is “could.” Flathead Realtors differ on how the lots will affect their industry. According to the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors, between 1,000 and 1,500 residential lots are sold each year in Flathead – which would not support a lot rush to market.

Kalispell may also add to the inventory. The 3,000-home Starling project was recently recommended for approval by the Kalispell Planning Board. If City Council takes the board’s advice, the development will be phased in over the next two decades, adding up to 8,000 people to the west side of town.

While city planners are less concerned, Flathead County Planning Director Jeff Harris keeps his eye on the numbers. He knows if people come, county government will have to play catch up. The county has already been cited for dust violations, he said, and traffic on the roughly 700 miles of unpaved county roadway is increasing. Developers are now asked to pitch in for paving projects.

Hill has seen a gradual decline in the number of final lots approved. Still, in 2006, only Gallatin County gave a green-light to more lots. And it’s the current stock that have him and other government officials concerned.

Flathead County is in a unique situation compared to other Western counties, with the potential to grow fast with little notice. For example, Larimer County, Colo., home to 276,000 people according to the U.S. Census, has just 5,500 undeveloped county lots.

Flathead Beacon


Montana RealEstateRama is an Internet based Real Estate News and Press Release distributor chanel of RealEstateRama for Montana Real Estate publishing community.

RealEstateRama staff editor manage to selection and verify the real estate news for State of Montana.


Previous articleSo, how do I get my $400 property tax rebate?
Next articleNo tax hike from reappraisal