Forest Service is urging Holland Lake Lodge developer to try again

A Utah-based developer is forced to return to the drawing board after Flathead National Forest rejected its original plan to expand and modernize Holland Lake Lodge in Condon. The plan had received significant opposition from Swan Valley locals, who claimed that the expansion would negatively impact both the community and the environment there.

In a Nov. 21 letter to Park City, Utah developer POWDR, the Forest Service said there were inaccuracies in its Master Development Plan. The letter, first reported by Montana Public Radio, was not released, but among the problems pointed out by an anti-development grassroots group, Save Holland Lake, was that the proposal would double the size of the lodge, although the Forest Service permit only allows 10.53 acres.

Flathead National Forest spokeswoman Tami Mackenzie likened the agency’s decision to a “reset” rather than a denial.

“If they’re going to move forward with that, they have to start over,” she told the Montana Free Press Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement published on HollandLakeFuture.com, a website set up by the developer, POWDR officials said they have not given up on their plans.

“Our intention from the start has been to improve Holland Lake Lodge’s lacking infrastructure in a sustainable manner to preserve the integrity of the lodge and the environment without sacrificing affordability for local residents and others who wish to marvel at the grandeur of our natural spaces ,” they wrote. “We plan to resubmit our plan for future investments and infrastructure improvements at Holland Lake Lodge, which aligns very well with our previously submitted Master Development Plan.”

This plan called for the demolition of 10 buildings and the construction of all new ones, including a 13,000-square-foot, 28-room building called “Bob Marshall Lodge.” The expansion would increase Holland Lake Lodge’s capacity from 50 guests per night to 156 per night.

The developer is working with Christian Wohlfeil, who has held the special use permit to operate the lodge since 2002. Wohlfeil and POWDR say that in addition to expanding capacity – which will make operations financially viable – they will also be winterizing buildings to make the resort possible be open all year round.

“If they want to move forward with that, they have to start from scratch.”

Tami Mackenzie, spokeswoman for Flathead National Forest

Stacey Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for POWDR, said in October that the proposal was “more of an upgrade than an expansion” and that the company was determined not to change the character of Holland Lake Lodge or the surrounding lake. A resort has stood on the shores of Holland Lake since 1924, and the current lodge was built in the late 1940’s after the original burned to the ground.

Save Holland Lake officials said they were pleased with the news that the forest service is rejecting the current master plan as written. But they said even if POWDR fixes those issues with the plan, they’re still opposed to expanding Holland Lake Lodge.

“We remain convinced that the Forest Service has a legal obligation to oppose the proposed expansion as it is not in the public interest,” the group said. “Our desire is to ensure that the National Forest lands surrounding Holland Lake remain a sanctuary for native fish, loons, wildlife and tranquil, sustainable recreation for present and future generations.”

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