Frequently Asked Questions
Cut Through the Noise of Inaccurate Information, Unsubstantiated Claims, and Flimsy Evidence
Below you will find some of the most common questions we have been asked about the Westside Woods subdivision. From the start of this project, we have welcomed open dialogue with the city, the school district, Kessler staff, and the surrounding neighbors. We hope you will find the answers to your questions below, but if not don’t hesitate to get in touch with us with any further concerns or questions and we will get back to you.
Why City Annexation?
Although the land is currently in Lewis and Clark County, Sussex believes it is more responsible, safer, and sustainable to annex Westside Woods into the City of Helena. Even though developing in the City is more expensive and arduous than in the County, Sussex is proud to propose a neighborhood that will not further exasperate the delicate water table in Helena with additional wells and septic systems. We feel public safety will greatly benefit by annexing this subdivision into the city. By upgrading the streets in and around this neighborhood to city standards, Westside Woods will make the surrounding neighborhoods safer and easier for the city to maintain.
Furthermore, Sussex is working with the City of Helena and the School District to improve the existing infrastructure outside of the Westside Woods area. We are helping to add the desperately needed road improvements, boulevard sidewalks, and traffic calming by Kessler School. This will greatly increase the safety of the neighborhood and most importantly the children walking to and from the nearby schools.
Will This Project Outpace Infrastructure?
This area is identified in the 2019 City of Helena Growth Policy as being within the Urban Standards Boundary (USB). With this in mind, land within the USB are areas where growth is expected to occur and that can be served with city services, particularly water and wastewater. Likewise, this area is shown as “Urban” on the future land use map indicating that it is appropriate to be developed to densities currently found within the City of Helena and is an ideal area for growth and annexation.
Sussex Construction has been working with the City of Helena and engineers to propose a design that fully meets the City of Helena subdivision regulations. Westside Woods has been designed to meet or exceed all federal, state, and local standards and regulations to promote and protect health and safety. Moreover, we rely on civil engineers, traffic professionals, the City of Helena experts, the School District, and third-party professionals hired by the City of Helena to determine off-site improvements as part of the City annexation. Therefore, Sussex will install all infrastructure improvements required by the City of Helena, to City standards, at each phase, before the property is annexed into the City.
Further, this project will improve the existing infrastructure in the adjacent neighborhoods to City standards. Sussex’s application includes pedestrian routes on complete streets from the planned subdivision to Kessler Elementary School. This is something that few other neighborhoods in the area currently enjoy. Significantly, all the roads inside and several blocks around the subdivision will be built or improved to city standards with paved roads, curbs & gutters, and boulevard sidewalks to accommodate traffic and pedestrians.
What is the Fire Danger?
According to the Tri-County Regional Community Wildfire Protection Plan, the location of Westside Woods is in a moderate to low Hazard Zone. In comparison, Downtown Helena is in an Extreme Hazard Zone, and Eastern Helena is in a High-Risk Zone. For this reason, the roads in this subdivision are designed to meet all the current fire codes. The City Subdivision Codes only requires 2 access roads for this development. However, Westside Woods has 4 access roads that connect to the entire road network of the City of Helena. This provides numerous routes for evacuation or emergency services to access the neighborhood.
In a joint statement, Sheriff Dutton, Police Chief Petty, and Fire Chief Campbell have stated about potential emergency evacuations in the city that, “Complete Streets built to engineering standards including International Fire Code considerations are the best evacuation routes” in a fire emergency. Westside Woods will have complete streets inside and almost a mile more outside of this community which will provide added safety for the whole area.
From the City Staff report: “Per the City of Helena Growth Policy, the subdivision is located in an area of moderate wildland fire hazard. There is adequate access from the subdivision via four access points into the development and the use of multiple adjacent streets to utilize in case of an evacuation. No specific fire mitigation plan was developed for this subdivision as it is located outside of high fire hazard area. Fire risks will be mitigated by using appropriate building techniques, proper fuels mitigation and overall maintenance of the adjacent open lands by the City of Helena.”
In addition, Sussex Construction is required to fire mitigate this property along with installing adequate fire hydrants throughout the neighborhood. We have worked with Tri-County FireSafe Working Group and NRCS to develop a fire mitigation plan for this property which will be fire mitigated to the same standards as the rest of the City of Helena’s open land.
Is There Direct Access to Highway 12?
As stated in the previous question, this community already has 4 access points; no additional access roads are required by any standard or code. Nevertheless, Sussex looked into additional access points for this subdivision to U.S. 12. However, due to topography, private property boundaries, the DOT, and the requirements of City Engineering Standards, another access road to this property from the west cannot be constructed to code to access U.S. 12 directly. Below is the City’s response to our request(s):
“MDT and City of Helena staff met to discuss your email and the request for direct access to Euclid Ave/US 12/N-8 to serve the West Side Subdivision. MDT had previously reviewed an approach request to US 12 in this vicinity, and we stand by our earlier decision to deny the request for an access in this area. This decision is based on our review of the Traffic Impact Study, which provided no compelling need for an additional approach to US 12, the limited sight distance, drainage issues, and potential safety implications.“
What About Le Grande Cannon Trail?
Nothing will change on Le Grande Cannon Trail, it will remain as it is. The land bordering the portion of this trail that Sussex owns will be dedicated to the City for continued public access as outlined in the Parks Board meetings and our trail map.
The subdivision will be built in 4 phases which means traffic will gradually increase over the course of several years, not all at once. Additionally, at each of the building phases, Sussex will be conducting supplemental Traffic Impact Studies. These will include signal warrant analysis conducted during the midweek while school is in session.
Required improvements based on projected traffic counts have been included in the subdivision application based on professional traffic analysis. Also, City of Helena traffic professionals and a third-party traffic professional have reviewed all the traffic data. Any required road improvements will be included in the conditions of approval and will be installed by Sussex Construction during each phase.
How Will This Subdivision Impact Kessler School?
Sussex Construction understands the proximity of this project to Kessler School and has held several meetings with current and former school principals and district staff. Based on these meetings, Sussex has agreed that more improvements (Letter to City Commission) will help the existing walkability issues around Kessler School.
In cooperation with Kessler School and Helena School District staff, Sussex will install a pedestrian-actuated flashing crosswalk sign at the current crosswalk at the Overlook Boulevard and Granite Avenue intersection as well as a streetlight to provide for better pedestrian safety at this location. Further, Sussex has agreed to the installation of bulb outs on the south end of the Kessler School property at the east leg of the Knight Street and Granite Avenue intersection. There will also be a flashing electronic speed limit sign south of this intersection in an effort to slow traffic speeds through the school area.
Westside Woods will additionally impact Kessler School by providing more students and tax dollars to the district that will be used to help improve the schools in the area.
Why This Design?
Our vision for Westside Woods was born out of respect for the land. The site is challenging due to its topography with steep slopes and several ephemeral drainages that cross through the property. With this in mind, the roads and lots have been laid out to limit cuts and fill as much as possible while meeting all codes, regulations, and laws. We have also designed it to fit into the existing neighborhoods while being nearly 300% less dense than Overlook Estates.
City Standards and Subdivision Code Significantly Limits Design Options
- 10% maximum road grade
- 4% grade at intersections
- 150’ turn radius minimum
- Block and cul-de-sac length
Consideration for Existing Land
- Designed to preserve natural topography while maintaining open space and public access.
Alignment with City Growth Plan
- Within the Urban Standards Boundary/moderate to high density.
- Over 13 acres of public land donated to the City of Helena
- Protects public trails access through the property
- Future city recreational development opportunity for the City of Helena
What Types of Houses Will You Offer?
Westside Woods will feature a diversity of single-family homes, as well as duplex & fourplex condos. The single-family homes will feature many of our Heron Creek Collection plus some additional house designs that fit better into the topography of the area. It is too early to give an exact price point for these houses and condos until the final plat is approved by the city.
Can I Reserve a Lot?
We are not currently taking any reservations for lots at Westside Woods. If you would like to be the first to know when they come available, please sign up for our e-mail list and you will be notified of updates to this project.
Will There Be a HOA?
There will be an HOA for the condos. The fees will be associated with the common areas and amenities. There may be an HOA for single-family homes, and to protect your investment, all single-family homes will have covenants that will be in compliance with the City of Helena ordinances.
Both the HOA’s will be responsible for maintaining the portions of the community trail that have not been donated to the city.
City Approval Process
Westside Wood’s subdivision application is currently going through the City of Helena approval process.
- Parks Board – Recommending Approval (Feb 1, 2023)
- City Staff – Recommending Approval (Feb 10, 2023)
- Planning Board- Recommending Approval (Feb 21, 2023)
- City Commission – Unanimous Approval (Apr 10, 2023)
Helena, Montana, is a special place to live, with many year-round outdoor attractions, art, recreation, and more. It is known for its historical buildings, miles of trails, mountain biking, hiking, boating, Nordic skiing, hunting, and fly-fishing on the numerous creeks and rivers. This growing area boasts incredible scenery, several large lakes, a strong sense of community, and the possibility of numerous adventures. If you are planning a visit or would like to know about community events, check out the links below.