Glampground Property

The West Gallatin River flows between the future site of the Riverbend Glamping Getaway and multiple homes  in Gallatin Gateway.

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Opposition to a vacation rental development in Gallatin Gateway is growing.

Local landowners have partnered with several conservation groups to form Protect the Gallatin River, a new nonprofit that organized a petition against the Riverbend Glamping Resort and urged people to voice their opposition to the Gallatin County Planning Department.

The creation of Protect the Gallatin River came just before the planning department closed the public comment period on Monday for the floodplain permit.

The planning department received 334 comments as well as the petition from Protect the Gallatin River, which included 1,062 signatures and 255 comments, said Director Sean O’Callaghan.

Only a few of the comments were in support of the development.

Now that the comment period has closed, Jeff Pfeil, who is behind the project, will have an opportunity to respond. O’Callaghan said he may also request additional information from Pfeil as he works to determine whether the project complies with county regulations.

A timeline for issuing or denying the permit has not been established.

If the permit is approved, the Riverbend Glamping Resort will be built along the Gallatin River just west of the Mill Street bridge.

It will include Airstream trailers, Conestoga wagons and tiny homes for rent, according to the permit application. Each unit will have access to water from a well on the property, to electricity from lines along Gateway South Road and to wastewater and natural gas services from pipelines underneath the Gallatin River.

A gravel road will connect the units to each other and to Gateway South Road. Existing buildings will be converted to visitor amenities like a gift shop.

Pfeil, the developer, said, “every single aspect of the project is temporary and mobile” so that they could be removed from the floodplain before a flood. He also said the development design ensures no impact on the river and flood flows.

To protect the river, he said he is committed to cleaning up trash and other hazardous material from the riverbank along his property.

Protect the Gallatin River, the main group opposing the project, has attracted the attention of national and local conservation groups.

American Rivers is among the organizations partnering with the group and submitted a letter asking the planning department to deny the permit.

Scott Bosse, the northern Rockies director for American Rivers, said the application for the permit doesn’t comply with county regulations.

“This is just an egregious development proposal in Gallatin County,” he said. “We don’t think we should be building roads and other infrastructure in the floodway.”

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has also joined Protect the Gallatin River.

“Though recreational demand is growing rapidly, we must take a holistic, long-term view if we are to ensure the health of our natural resources and quality of our local recreational experiences in perpetuity,” the group said in a letter to the planning department. “The proposed glampground simply does not fit with that vision.”

The Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, another partner of Protect the Gallatin River, listed more than a dozen ways it thought the application violated the county’s floodplain rules.

“Recent and relentless development pressures confronting Gallatin County, as seen in the instant proposal seeking to capitalize on tourism and profit from the draw of our clean, healthy Gallatin River, should not be reason to sidestep the reasonable and prudent regulations of unsuitable activities within the floodplain,” wrote Guy Alsentzer, the group’s executive director.

A handful of people have voiced support in their public comments.

Andrew Webster said it “would be a nice option for visitors” and Jerry Awe said, “Fear of the future should not be the grounds of denial.”

If the planning department issues the floodplain permit, Pfeil may also be able to construct a sewer force main and fiber optic line under the Gallatin River to connect his property to the Gallatin Gateway Water and Sewer District.

The planning department gave conditional approval to the sewer force main and fiber optic line several weeks ago, but Peggy Lehmann, a Gallatin Gateway resident who has been an active opponent of the resort, recently appealed the decision to the Gallatin County Commission.

At least one other permit is pending for the project.

NorthWestern Energy applied for a floodplain permit last winter to place a natural gas pipeline under the river for the development. O’Callaghan said he is still seeking additional information from NorthWestern before he can decide whether to issue the permit.

NorthWestern has said it is working to secure the permit.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the level of impact the developer says the project would have on flood flows. Pfeil said the design is meant to ensure no impact on flood flows.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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