Gallatin County Courthouse File

The Gallatin County Court House is shown in this August 14, 2018, file photo.

Two local landowners have asked Gallatin County District Court to reverse the county commissioners’ rejection of their plans for a 10-lot subdivision six miles north of Bozeman.

The commissioners, who rarely deny requests for new subdivisions, turned down Robert and Nancy Fosters’ application for preliminary approval of a 23-acre subdivision off Springhill Road in April.

When they rejected the application, Commissioners Scott MacFarlane and Don Seifert said it was unclear whether there were two public access points to the subdivision, which is required by county regulations.

In a petition of appeal filed with the district court in May, the Fosters argued the subdivision plans showed there were clearly two public access points and alleged that the commissioners denied their application based on “faulty conclusions” about the subdivision design, according to court documents.

The access in question would have been a new road — ATJ Way — off of Marks Way, which is a small road that was built as part of a six-lot subdivision the Fosters developed several years ago. The Fosters argued that Marks Way is a public road, while the commissioners said it is unclear whether the easements for Marks Way provide for public access or provide access only for specific homes in the six-lot subdivision.

The other entry to the subdivision would have been via a new public road that would connect to Skyview Drive, which is off East Baseline Road.

The commissioners didn’t have concerns about this public access, and it is not part of the appeal.

This winter, the commissioners held a handful of public meetings on the Fosters’ subdivision application, during which several Marks Way residents expressed concerns about the development. They said the subdivision would stress the area’s water supply and increase traffic in their neighborhood.

Homeowners in another adjacent subdivision, Saddle Peak Ranch, also objected to the new subdivision. They requested restrictions on heavy equipment driving near their homes during construction, contributions to road maintenance in their subdivision and tree plantings along the roads to reduce light pollution.

The Fosters and the commissioners were amenable to the homeowners’ requests.

Commissioner Joe Skinner was the only commissioner to vote to approve the application and did so on the condition that the nearby homeowners’ concerns were addressed.

The Fosters have been working to develop their property since at least 2005 when the county sued them for dividing their land in a way that created tracts smaller than 160 acres, which state law sets as the threshold for the subdivision review process.

Three years ago, the Fosters proposed developing a small subdivision on part of their property but withdrew their application after the planning board rejected it.

The county has yet to respond to the appeal. Neither the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office nor the Fosters’ lawyer responded to a call for comment Friday.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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