Kalispell approves permit for respite home near hospital

May 9, 2019

The Kalispell City Council voted unanimously during a public meeting on Monday to approve a conditional use permit that will allow for a community center to be built near Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

The request for the permit came from Terry and Lori Williamson of Columbia Falls who have intentions for the community center to become a day-use respite home - a temporary getaway in which hospital patients and their families can relax.

The subject property is nestled in a quaint neighborhood located just Northwest of the hospital at 15 Glacier View Drive and is zoned R-3, which allows for community centers so long as applicants receive a conditional-use permit.

According to the Kalispell Zoning Ordinance, a community center is defined by the city as “A place, structure, area of other facility used for and providing religious, fraternal, social, or recreational programs. It is not operated for profit and generally open to the public and designed to accommodate and serve the community.”

According to a city report, the community center will be “very similar to a Ronald McDonald House, where it will serve the purpose of offering families a home environment away from the hospital.”

However, the approval of the respite home did not come without a fair share of opposition from neighboring homeowners, much of which was voiced during a Kalispell Planning Board meeting on April 9, in which all but one board member voted to recommend approval of the permit.

Among other concerns, many pointed to potential transportation issues the building would bring, most notably mentioning the lack of sidewalks from the hospital to the center.

However, the Williamsons pledged to finance a new sidewalk in order to quell the concerns - a move that made a guarantee after the Planning Board added the sidewalks as a condition of approval.

“We feel its essential and necessary and we want safe passage for the children coming over,” Williamson said at Monday’s meeting.

Two neighborhood locals who had “vehemently opposed” the center said they had retracted their comments after lengthy discussion with the Williamsons, saying they were very receptive of their concerns.

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com