West Lakeshore property heads back to county control

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The city of Whitefish is kicking an unbuildable piece of property back to Flathead County after annexing the property this summer.

City Council March 6 approved de-annexation for a lot on West Lakeshore Drive at the request of the owner.

Councilor Frank Sweeney said the move to de-annex is appropriate.

“This is vacant land,” he said. “It can never be built on and it will never need city services. This is truly a unique piece of property.”

Property owners would typically see about a 20 percent increase in their tax property bill as a result of annexation, according to the city.

The city in July annexed 25 properties on West Lakeshore Drive saying the move was part of efforts to protect the water quality of Whitefish Lake. Many of the properties have lake frontage.

At the time Bruce Tate objected to the annexation of one of his two lots. He argued that the vacant lot he owns can never be developed because of longtime restrictions placed on the property and therefore should be exempt from annexation. He did agree to the annexation of the lot that contains his home.

Tate owns two lots on West Lakeshore Drive adjacent to Whitefish Lake State Park. The unusable lot sits closest to State Park just to the east of the park’s swimming area.

Tate set out his case to de-annex in a Feb. 17 letter to Council. He notes that the size of the lot once setback are subtracted is only .086 of an acre that has potential for use if the lot were even buildable, and the southwest end of the lot is marshy and the lot slopes down from east to west and from north to south.

In addition, when the Tates constructed a garage on the same lot as their house, they agreed to a declaration with Flathead County that the unbuildable lot could never have a residence “constructed, used or maintained on said property” and the restrictions would be binding for 50 years, and automatically renew in perpetuity. The Tates purchased the lot in 1985 as a “wooded green space” between their lot and State Park.

“It is a benefit to both the State Park and to the neighborhood to have this undeveloped space serving as a buffer,” Tate said.

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