Westside subdivision heads back to Helena commission with planning board approval

Nolan Lister

Following a more than five-hour meeting, the Helena and Lewis and Clark County Joint Planning Board passed a recommendation to the Helena City Commission to approve the preliminary plat for the Westside Woods subdivision along with more than 20 staff-written conditions.

The nine-member board voted to approve the recommendation with only one dissenter, board member James Sonntag, who objected to the developers’ request for exceptions to the city’s standards for block length and street interconnections. Board member Mike McCabe abstained, saying that was not enough public health and safety information to make a decision.

Developer Sussex Construction’s initial pass at approval for the about 59-acre, then 179-unit subdivision known as Westside Woods was killed by the Helena City Commission in January 2022 after it denied variance requests for the same issues.

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In its new application, Sussex is seeking “exceptions” to the standards as opposed to variance requests. City code allows for exceptions to those standards “when a longer length is needed to meet grade limitations,” which Sussex argues is the case.

In other words, the developer says roads that would connect the proposed dead ends would

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