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Public comment period extended on Holland Lake Lodge expansion

 A map of the proposed Holland Lake Lodge Site Plan
U.S. Forest Service
Proposed Holland Lake Lodge Site Plan

The owner of Holland Lake Lodge in the Swan Valley is partnering with a ski resort operator and wants to add a new lodge, cabins, a restaurant and parking lots to accommodate more guests.

Susan Monahan of the Seeley-Swan Pathfinder reports more than 100 people raised concerns about the project at an open house earlier this month. That sparked the scheduling of another meeting and the solicitation of more input on the project. MTPR's Freddy Monares spoke with Susan about the project.

Freddy Monares: For those who don't know, where would this proposed project take place? 

Susan Monahan: Between Seeley Lake and Swan Lake along Highway 83, near Condon, Montana.

Freddy Monares: What do we know about the groups that came up with this project?

Susan Monahan: Well, Christian Wohlfeil, the owner of Holland Lodge, has been looking to sell the Lodge for the last couple of years. Some of the other entities that have looked at purchasing Holland Lake Lodge have wanted to be exclusive and because of the U.S. Forest Service permits, found problems with that. He [Wohlfeil] was approached by POWDR, which is a group based out of Utah, and they do ski hills and work with the Forest Service permitting process on all of their other projects that they have.

Freddy Monares: As far as the details, what would this expansion at Holland Lake look like?

Susan Monahan: So, the expansion would go from providing rooms for 50 guests to 156 guests, with the Bob Marshall Lodge with 28 rooms, 10 lake cabins and 16 smaller studio cabins. There would also be a welcome center and a restaurant. The expansion changes the footprint of the existing structures maintained within the 15 acre permit area. This does not include parking lots and things like that, that would also be added.

Freddy Monares: How are nearby residents responding?

Susan Monahan: Looking at the change, they're concerned about the impacts to the area with increased usage. They are also concerned about the aesthetics, the look from the lake. Currently you can see the lodge from the lake, but the smaller cabins are behind the trees. The current proposal, the way it stands, has the cutting down of some trees, and that would make the new buildings visible from the lake.

Freddy Monares: What about the lodge owner and Forest Service officials? What are they saying?

Susan Monahan: Well, Christian is hopeful that he can sell the property and work with the community. The Forest Service is hearing the community's concerns. Public comment was set to close on September 21st, that has been extended to October 7th. There is another public meeting on October 4th.

Freddy Monares: I want to talk about the lodge's owner partnering with POWDR. POWDR operates 11 mountain resorts, according to its websites, have any plans been announced beyond adding more buildings?

Susan Monahan: Not at this time. I think that they want to expand to make it, I think the term was used viable, but they are not looking at other expansion beyond the hotel space. I know I heard people at the open house speculate about a golf course and a ski hill and with it butting up against the wilderness. For Kurt Steele, the Flathead National Forest Supervisor, he looked around and seemed to not feel that was viable.

Freddy Monares: So what's the next step? Where do we go from here?

Susan Monahan: Well, currently it is in a scoping [phase] for NEPA, and it could move to an environmental assessment.

Freddy Monares: Anything else you want to add?

Susan Monahan: You know, most of the people that were present agreed that the current buildings are in need of some tender, loving care. They just are concerned with the changes and the growth, and again, I think the aesthetics. I think there's concerns about private use on the lake, which the permitted area is 15 acres, there is private land, there is a public boat launch and a campground.

Freddy Monares: Susan Monahan is a reporter for the Seeley-Swan Pathfinder who's covering a proposal to expand Holland Lake Lodge. Susan, thanks for your reporting.

Susan Monahan: Thank you.

A meeting for the project has been scheduled for October 4th, starting at noon at the Swan Valley Community Hall in Condon and at 5:30 p.m. at the Seeley Lake Elementary School. Those who want to submit comment on the proposal can do so on the Forest Service website by October 7th.

Corrected: September 28, 2022 at 5:20 PM MDT
A previous version of this story that aired on Tuesday, Sept. 27, incorrectly stated the square footage that buildings at Holland Lake Lodge would take up under one proposal. The buildings under the proposal would have a footprint of roughly 29,000 sq. ft.
Freddy Monares was a reporter and Morning Edition host at Montana Public Radio.
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