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Construction causes controversy in Kalispell

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Jun 27 2014 06:51:45 PM MDT
BLACK ANCHOR ESPRESSO
KALISPELL, Mont. -

A fight over an easement has an espresso hut owner wondering if she'll have to shell out big bucks for a remodel.

A former U.S. Congressman, Denny Rehberg, is building a Burger King right next door.

Turns out, the shop needs access to his land to do business.

The small drive thru only coffee shop has been on the corner of the highway for many years with multiple owners.

The urger king contractors put up a fence.

That blocked one of her entrances.

But, when we started digging into it, we found the problem boils down to access and an easement the espresso shop doesn't have.

During the summer, Michelle Riska's business Black Anchor Espresso is busy.

So why is she closed on a Friday afternoon in June?

"We had no idea about the fence going up, nor would we be shutting our doors," said Riska.

It's because a new Burger King is beginning construction in Kalispell, right next to Riska's coffee shop.

A fence around the construction site has one lane of her drive thru lane blocked, and an entrance to the shop is blocked off as well.

"This is prime location; our coffee shop does great numbers.  We push through over 100 cars a day right now.  Our business continues to climb and I have no clue where our numbers could be," Riska said.

We headed over to Riska's shop to see the construction.

She says they've known since February that the burger king was being built, but she didn't think that the project would get in the way of her business.

But according to Kramer Enterprises, the land they are building on is their own.

Riska says she has a legal team looking into the matter.

"I would hate to see anything go crazy over a Burger King and shut down a local business," Riska said.

Denny Rehberg and his attorney’s released this statement about the issue:

“The owners of the new Burger King being built on Highway 93, Denny and Jan Rehberg of BSK Kalispell, LLC, are a bit perplexed by the controversy that has developed over the long-overdue removal of the coffee kiosk on the property in front of their new restaurant.  A 2007 “view-shed easement” protects the Burger King property and prohibits the construction of any buildings in the area where the coffee kiosk is located.  In April 2011 the then-owner of the Burger King property allowed the Outlaw Inn to lease the space to Greg and Michelle Riska, the owners of the coffee kiosk, on condition that the Riskas would “return the property to its previous condition including but not limited to removal of the coffee kiosk building” when the lease expired on January 30, 2014.

The Riskas have known that the coffee kiosk would have to be removed for more than three years.  The Rehbergs purchased the Burger King property based on assurances that the kiosk would be removed.  The Rehbergs have allowed the kiosk to remain for almost six months after the deadline for its removal came and went.

A construction fence was installed on the Burger King property by the general contractor in order to protect the public and workers while the asphalt is removed and the site is excavated. 

The new Burger King will generate approximately 50 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs for restaurant employees.  The Rehbergs want to be good neighbors and are excited about becoming part of the Kalispell community.”