Headwaters PUD

The rendering above shows how the buildings of the Headwaters PUD will look.

The Three Forks City Council on Tuesday granted preliminary plat approval with a number of conditions for a proposed work/live development on the city’s south side.

Three Rivers Development Group has proposed building a complex comprising 32 work/live units, each of which would consist of 1,200 feet of industrial work area on the lower level and 1,200 feet of residential living space upstairs. The plan known as the Headwaters PUD departs from the group’s original proposal to build a residential condominium complex on the 3.9070-acre site, which was then outside the city limits.

The group changed its original proposal after the Zoning & Planning Board suggested a development more in keeping with the area’s industrial nature. The new configuration would, in the words of the developers, create a “natural transition between the existing residential uses to the north and the industrial uses to the south” in the city. If the project proceeds, the PUD will be built on three newly annexed acres on the southwest corner of South Main Street/Old Yellowstone Trial and West Ivy Street.

The city annexed the parcel in December 2019, and the Zoning & Planning Board approved the proposal with 19 conditions at its August meeting. A handful of those conditions were discussed at length at Tuesday’s council meeting, with project engineer Philip Kedrowski taking issue with some of the requirements related to road construction and utility.

In particular, Kedrowski said a few of the Planning Board’s conditions imposed “overreaching” burdens on the developers by requiring them to evaluate the entire capacity of the city’s water and wastewater systems, rather than just the additional loads the project would place on those systems. City engineer Craig Pozega concurred that the wording of the requirements was imprecise, but stressed the city needs to know how much volume the project would discharge to the city’s wastewater system.

The council ultimately voted to clarify the language, absolving developers of the responsibility to assess system-wide capacity but maintaining the provisions requiring them to submit data about the utility impacts of the project.

In the interest of shortening the approval process, the council also agreed to drop a condition requiring Montana Department of Environmental Quality to review project impacts to the water system. The council instead agreed the approval of the city engineer would satisfy that requirement.

Kedrowski said a condition requiring developers to pave West Ivy Street to “city standards” was imprecise because Three Forks does not have a set standard for street development. He presented cost estimates for three possible road configurations ranging from paving the existing gravel road to considerably more expensive “Cadillac plan” that is the city standard in Bozeman. The larger city’s standard includes paving to accommodate two lanes of traffic and parking, a boulevard, curb and gutter, and a sidewalk. Kedrowski said building West Ivy to that standard would necessitate 

significant and costly changes to the site plan, including moving retention ponds to a different area of the site.

During deliberations, project developer Rick Remitz said such expenses could jeopardize the economic viability of the project. Instead of pricing individual units in the $275,000-$300,000 range as previously estimated, he said Three Rivers might be forced to push per-unit prices into the $450,000 range in order to make a profit.

“I want to do it right, but you have to say to yourself, ‘Is it worth it?’ ” Remitz said. “This is about working together and about what makes sense.”

Despite the objections of Remitz and Kedrowski, the council voted to require development of West Ivy to the Bozeman standard.

Final plat approval may be granted within three years if developers meet the city’s requirements. If that process takes longer than three years, developers would be required to file for an extension for final plat approval. City officials have previously said final approval could be granted this year, with possible construction to begin in the spring, but they say developers didn’t give any indication of their projected timelines after the council’s vote on Tuesday.

If it is built, enterprises that could occupy the commercial units in the PUD include offices; retail businesses such as bakeries, art and music supply stores, sign shops, and sports and fitness facilities; light manufacturing businesses handling such products as electronic equipment, appliances and furniture; repair and service establishments for such consumer goods as automobiles and appliances; banks and other financial institutions; shops devoted to dressmaking, cabinet building or metal fabrication; and private schools, including those teaching secretarial or technical skills, dance studios, etc.