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On Monday, Nov. 17th at 10:30am the Flathead County Commissioners will hold a final public hearing to consider allowing property owners to add a rental unit to their property in almost all zoned areas in Flathead County.

Please join us in asking the County Commissioners to send this proposal back to the planning board for revisions and reconsideration based on the concerns outlined below.


     It is very important to take time now to comment as this is the final public hearing on this
the proposed zone text change. If the County Commissioners make a zoning text change to the Flathead County Zoning Regulations, as proposed here, the permitted uses in all or some county zones can be changed to allow new uses in areas that did not previously allow such uses.

     So if you live in an area of the county that is currently zoned one of the following: AG-80, AG-40, AG-20, SAG-10, SAG-5, R-2.5 and R-1 districts, this change will now allow as a permitted use (a use by right not requiring or allowing for any public comment/protest/or hearing) for you or a neighbor to add for rent an additional house, an attached apartment, or an interior apartment within an existing house, so long as these units have their own entrance, meet setbacks, and provide for additional parking. Click here for a general map to see how your property is zoned. Click here for a detailed map to see how your property is zoned. Click here for a description of uses currently allowed in zoned areas (See pages 23-51).
     If you live in an area of the county that is currently zoned one of the following: R-2, R-3, R-4, R-5 and RA-1 districts, this change will now allow an ADU as an administrative conditional use (a use by right subject to approval by the county planning director with mailed public notice to adjoining properties within 150 feet allowing for written public comment).

  The County Planning Board drafted and proposed this major zoning change with little public outreach and almost no media coverage. They held a public hearing on this proposed change in September.

Please feel free to copy and paste any of the following into your comments and click here to email.  We are asking the Flathead County Commissioners to:


Please send this proposal back to the planning board and ask them to host more public information workshops on this proposed zone text change, which would allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's) for rental in most county zones.  

  • This zone change could have significant impacts in some areas and should be revised to better safeguard against these impacts to neighborhoods and many individual property owners who relied on the existing zoning when they bought their property.

Please consider other alternatives and do not simply allow ADUs in almost all zoned areas. 

  • Consider requiring neighborhoods or zoned areas to petition and show support for the addition of ADUs to their area. This should include a public hearing process to set standards for ADUs appropriate to that particular area.

Please revise this proposal and put in place safeguards that:  

  • Require owner occupancy of the primary dwelling so rental units are well managed.
  • Require a conditional use permit for all ADU's to allow for public comment by neighbors or as noted above a petition of support for the area proposed for ADUs.
  • Cap the size & height of ADUs to better ensure they fit with in proposed neighborhoods. Don't allow the ADU size to be a % of the size of the primary dwelling. 
  • Consider 6 month-1year rental requirements to avoid the abuse and impacts of 30-day rentals and the abuse and enforcement issues that short term rentals can bring to a neighborhood.
  • Clarify how impacts from ADUs to neighbors will be prevented or handled and enforced including impacts from:
    • vegetation removal,
    • storm water runoff,
    • noise,
    • lights,
    • building heights,
    • blocked view-sheds,
    • additional pets or livestock,
    • types of housing stock allowed like trailers or temporary housing units,
    • added and cumulative road impacts,
    • shared responsibility for road improvements or fees
    • added impacts to environmentally sensitive areas,
    • limited or shared access to recreational facilities like lakes and docks,
    • added impacts to water & septic systems, community wells and water rights, 
    • the potential of multiple home businesses on one lot,
    • the potential abuse of these units for short term rentals
    • potential impacts from ownership changes and pressures to allow further subdivision of lots for sale, and
    • how the county will track and collect information about the impacts of this change in policy on affordable housing and other factors.

Citizens for a Better Flathead
Citizens for a Better Flathead encourages you to make a difference by participating in the decisions that are shaping the future of your community!

Our work and alerts such as this are dependent on the generous support of individuals like you.

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Public Hearing Agenda

Monday, November 17th at 10:30am, 800 South Main St, Room 302, Kalispell, Main Courthouse - 3rd floor.

County Planning Office Staff Report that describes the proposed zone change and reasons the planning board supports this change.

Background Information

The County staff report states some of the reasons for allowing ADUs are " would preserve the property rights of landowners, promote the development of affordable housing and owning an ADU makes owning a home more affordable due to revenue from the ADU."

Current Policies on ADUs

---Presently Flathead County does not recognize or allow ADUs. They are not presently defined or permitted in any zoning district in the County; either inside, attached to or detached from a principal residence.           


---The Cities of Columbia Falls or Kalispell do not allow ADUs as proposed. (They may however, allow for guest houses, caretaker and watchmen type buildings or family hardship structures in certain zones on a non-rental basis). 


---Only Whitefish allows ADUs - but they require a conditional use permit allowing for public comment and conditioning or denial of a proposed AUD. The proposed AUD must be attached to a primary single-family dwelling or a garage located behind a primary single-family dwelling on the same lot. The floor area may not exceed 600 square feet. It may only be rented if the property owner permanently lives on-site.


Other Pros and Cons
of  ADUs


---As proposed, the absence of an owner-occupancy requirement for the principal home on the property can easily lead to both structures being rented and distant or irresponsible landlords allowing typical rental and unruly tenant problems to degrade the quality of neighborhoods.


---With out an owner-occupancy requirement, speculative development may be encouraged where developers could buy up one or more lots and add rental units without regard to the historical neighborhood character.


---While studies show that communities with "favorable" zoning can expect to get approximately one ADU per 1,000 single family homes per year, communities with high levels of tourism could see a higher level of development if safeguards are not in place to discourage or prevent abuse of this housing for short-term rentals.


---Require neighborhoods to show neighborhood support though a petition to the county for a zoning "overlay" district for ADU's and the standards that will best work for their neighborhood, may be a better way to insure that local residents have a real voice in zone changes to their neighborhood.


---Research on best practices for ADUs suggest it is best to locate these units in urban or suburban areas in close proximity to available public services, retail goods and services, transportation networks, and employment options - especially to provide for affordable housing needs for lower-income and senior persons.


---As proposed the 40% limit on ADU square footage size to the principal dwelling could allow extremely large ADUs for very large homes since there is no cap on the size of principal dwellings. This is inconsistent with the desire of many to preserve the character of the district where these units may be allowed. Many jurisdictions place square footage limits on the size of the ADU and establish minimum lot size standards in addition to setting percent limits on ADU structures in relation to principal dwellings.


----The county staff report, in support of this proposed zoning amendment to add ADUs, talks a lot about promoting affordable housing, but the proposed zone change places no limits on rent levels and does not provide---as it could and should--- incentives for those in most need of affordable housing in the county to be able to obtain housing. Instead these additional units that may result from this zone change could easily result in only market rate housing for middle to upper-income tenants or tourist.


---Some neighborhoods or subdivisions have covenants that govern the type or size of home that can be built and if they can be rented. These documents would need to be reviewed for how this zone change might or might not impact them. With or without covenants, before AUD's are adopted for Flathead County standards are needed to better ensure that the character and quality of the zoned area is retained.


County Proposed definition of ADUs:

"7.05.150 Dwelling unit, accessory (ADU) - A single, separate habitable living unit added to, created within, or detached from the principal single-family dwelling that provides the basic requirements for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation with stays of 30 days or longer on a single-family lot. ADUs are subordinate in size (no larger than 40% of the floor area of the principal dwelling), location, and appearance to the principal single-family dwelling and have separate means of ingress and egress. One ADU is allowed per tract of record and it may be rented to the general public."