Are you moving to the rural Kalispell Montana area? Or do you already live in the Flathead Valley but are interested in moving to a less crowded area? Do you want privacy and wildlife? If yes, there are many things to consider, including purchasing decisions, access issues, service delivery, agriculture and the right to farm, mother nature and wildlife. This second post about rural living in Flathead County covers potential land access issues.
Flathead County Planning and Zoning prepared a very good document for both natives and newcomers to the area. They’ve given me approval to share here. The second chapter deals with access to your property.
And I quote:
The fact that you can drive to your property today doesn’t necessarily mean that you, your guests, and emergency service providers will be able to reach you in February. Just another reason to make friends with the logger down the road with the heavy equipment. In the meantime, please remember:
- Emergency response times cannot be guaranteed. Under some extreme conditions, response may be extremely slow or not at all if weather or conditions render your access impassable.
- Legal access is not the same as physical access. If your access crosses the property of others, consult a legal professional to clearly understand what your easement authorizes.
- It is wise to determine whether or not your road was properly engineered and constructed. Even with proper construction, annual road maintenance will be needed, which can require renting or owning special equipment.
- In extreme weather even county-maintained roads can become impassable. You may need a four-wheel drive vehicle with chains on all four wheels to travel during these occasions. Don’t expect to see the county snowplow on your road first thing every morning!
- You can expect to experience maintenance problems with your road, even if it is county-maintained. Flathead County encompasses 5,098 square miles. Within that area are 1,200 miles of county-maintained roads.
- Dust is an unpleasant fact of life for most rural residents. If you want to make enemies quickly, move to the country off an unpaved road, then call the Road and Bridge Department after the first dry, dusty day and demand to know when your road will be paved.
- If your road is unpaved, it is unlikely Flathead County will pave it in the near future. Check carefully with the Road and Bridge Department when any statement is made by the seller or seller’s representative that indicates paving is planned.
- Flathead County will repair and maintain county roads, however subdivision or private roads are the responsibility of the homeowner’s or road user’s association. This can be particularly costly after flooding or other natural disasters.
- Don’t expect your neighbors to join a petition asking for improved service or paving of a rural road. Rural people cherish their independence and willingness to go it alone. They may not jump at the chance to pave the road and make it easier for more folks to move in.
- School buses travel only on maintained county roads that are designated school bus routes by the school district. You may need to drive your children to the nearest county road or even all the way to school.
As indicated by Flathead County Planning and Zoning, the above are important access factors to take into consideration if you are thinking of moving to any area outside of a town or city. My personal home is only a 15 minute drive from the center of the city of Kalispell and it is located on a county-maintained dirt road. The first half mile or so is on a hill that gets little sun and it is often icy or snow packed during the winter. The county trucks do come around 9 or 10am on many workdays and plow or apply sand. On weekends they don’t. So there are days when travel is tricky. A four-wheel drive is a must.
Also, the road does “grow” potholes and dips on a regular basis. There are several culverts under the road and the dirt surrounding them collapses somewhat. Drivers must beware until the county fixes the issues (which they do!).
Some other thoughts. The school bus does not come up our road. Because the road is miles long, all parents drive their children to the beginning of the road. And school rarely closes. So parents who live on our road have to traverse the icy/snowy road daily. That’s part of life in rural Montana!
So I echo the words in the Flathead County booklet. If you want to live on a dirt road, some planning and preparation is needed to be able to get in and out regardless of weather. In my opinion, it’s totally worth it to be in an area where a flock of turkeys, herd of deer, lone grouse, or all sorts of other animals can slow down your commute.
If you are interested in purchasing land or an existing home in rural areas of the Flathead Valley, I’d be happy to make sure you have the information you need to select the property or home that works for you. The same is true if you want to move into a city or town. I’m available to assist with those properties as well. Just call me at 406-270-3667 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part three of this series will address service delivery issues associated with rural property. Until then, enjoy!