City Council looks to future planning in setting annual goals list

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Items related to planning for the future of Whitefish dominate the City Council’s recently approved goals list.

In the spring each year, Council sets its priority projects for short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are generally hoped to be accomplished in one to two years, while long-term goals are set for five years.

Council nearly doubled the items on its short-term goals list when it approved the updated list on May 1.

Three of the items relate to the downtown master plan, which lays out a path for future development in the downtown core. Council said it wants to see implementation of the master plan as a priority including implementation of a downtown overlay zone, and review of the city’s architectural design standards.

One of the items called for in the master plan is revamping the Wisconsin Avenue viaduct to allow for wider sidewalks, street lights and planters. Council asked for that item to be listed separately on its goals list.

During a work session on the list, Council Richard Hildner said that piece is important as development continues in the Wisconsin neighborhood to connect to downtown.

“I’d like to see us be proactive about the overpass improvements,” he said.

Also related, Council kept the redevelopment of Depot Park on its short-term list. The city is already planning several projects in Depot Park this summer as part of implementing the park’s master plan.

Other planning items on the list include the creation of a Highway 93 South corridor plan and an update of the city’s extension of services plan for utilities and annexation.

Two items the city is already well underway with — a rewrite of its planned unit development standards and the creation of a Wisconsin Avenue corridor study — are on the short term goals list. The Planning Board is set to hold a work session this week on a draft of the PUD rewrite.

An evaluation of the possibilities for creating new tax increment finance districts in the city was added to the short-term list. The city’s current TIF district sunsets in 2020. The city has funded several projects with TIF including the construction of the new City Hall and parking structure.

Council chose to move downtown parking to its ongoing goals after the item was previously listed as a short-term goal.

Councilor Jen Frandsen said it may seem like the city should see how the new parking garage set to open this spring helps with parking issues, but it still needs to plan for the future.

“We need to be thinking in the long term about where the next locations for parking are going to be,” she said.

A host of items were crossed off of last year’s goal list. Those included: hiring a new City Manager, a new City Hall, completing an update of the bike and pedestrian master plan, and approving water and wastewater rate increases.

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