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More changes proposed for U.S. 93 South plan

August 20, 2018

The Whitefish City Council is poised to make a decision Monday, Aug. 20, on a development plan for a 70-acre swath of land along U.S. 93 South, even though the developers once again have revised their proposal.

Whitefish 57 LLC and Eagle Enterprises are asking for a sub-area plan for commercial and residential development on property fronting U.S. 93 between JP Road and Park Knoll Lane.

The council delayed its decision on a resolution of intent to adopt the plan as an amendment to the Whitefish growth policy amid ongoing changes by the developers.

The July 2 public hearing was extended to July 16 when plans shifted to designate the area west of the proposed Baker Avenue extension as urban, with possible one- or two-family residential zoning. The council opted to continue the hearing until its Aug. 6 meeting, when the public hearing was closed and began deliberations at 11 p.m. after taking more than an hour more of comments. At the late hour the council opted to delay a vote until Aug. 20 to further consider the additional testimony.

The 11th-hour changes have drawn criticism from the South Whitefish Neighborhood Association, which was formed out of concerns about how the proposed development would affect those neighborhoods.

“It is both incredibly frustrating and a violation of the public’s right to participate for the city to allow last-minute changes to this proposed plan while, at the same time, closing the public comment period,” said Mayre Flowers of CommUnity Consulting, speaking on behalf of the association. “The council has not only failed to encourage public participation throughout this major change to the Whitefish growth policy by allowing such changes, it has placed unacceptable hurdles in front of citizens who are doing their best to understand the issues at hand and meaningfully participate in the council’s decision.”

In a memorandum sent Aug. 14 to city officials, Eric Mulcahy of Sands Surveying noted Whitefish 57 LLC and Eagle Enterprises “slightly revised” the plan to add a condition protecting the wetland areas in the portion of the property with the city’s water quality protection ordinance.

Other revisions include new language about affordable housing, using the planned-unit development tool for density bonus provisions and limiting the land-use map to a maximum of 250 residential units.

“If multifamily residential is developed through a PUD process, vegetative buffers will be retained along the north and south property boundaries,” the revised plan states.

Flowers said the additions to the plan “once again calls into question the clear intent of this small group of developers.

“The new policy plan muddles any much-needed guarantee for annexation or the long-term protection of the large wetland complex on the property,” Flowers continued. “Rather, it merely ‘encourages’ compliance with the city’s water-quality protection regulations in the ‘unincorporated portion’ of the proposed growth policy amendment area and leaves open a door of potential conflict between the county and city against each other due to differences between city and county regulations.”

The neighborhood association has encouraged the city to deny the plan until the city finalizes its South Highway 93 Corridor Plan and implements an affordable housing plan.

In other business, the council will hold a public hearing to consider a conditional-use permit from LLC/Ostrem for a proposed mixed-use building with six residential units at 124 O’Brien Ave. in the general business district.

The property is vacant and designated in the growth policy as a core commercial area. The Whitefish Planning Board recommended approval on a 4-1 vote.

A public hearing will be held on an ordinance requested by the city that amends zoning regulations to prohibit residential short-term rentals in the secondary business district.

The meeting begins at 7:10 p.m. at Whitefish City Hall.

Features Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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