Neighbors concerned about traffic impacts from Wisconsin development

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A residential resort development looks to create 102 dwellings units on about 10 acres off of Wisconsin Avenue at the gravel pit located on the west side of Wisconsin directly across from Alpine Village Market. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish PIlot)

Despite hearing a few concerns regarding increases in traffic, the Whitefish Planning Board gave a favorable recommendation last week to a planned residential resort development that looks to create 102 dwelling units on the congested Wisconsin Avenue.

Wisconsin Development Partners is requesting a conditional use permit to develop about 10 acres off of Wisconsin Avenue at the former gravel pit located on the west side of Wisconsin directly across from Alpine Village Market. The area is comprised of vacant land and the parcels for Big Mountain Trailer Court.

The plan calls for 36 apartment-style condominiums in three 12-plexes on the south third of the property, while the 66 condominium cabins would be located in the center and north end of the project.

The property is zoned low density resort residential, which the city zoning code describes as “intended to provide a low density setting for secondary residential resorts.” The 102 units is the maximum density allowed for the property.

During public comment, Jim Stack, who is constructing an office building across the road just south of the Stumptown Ice Den, noted that the Montana Department of Transportation made it challenging for him to obtain access from Wisconsin Avenue for his new building. He also took issue with the grouping of the 12-plexes on the south third of the property.

“This project has much more impact,” he said.

Two access sites are proposed off Wisconsin, including a new public right-of-way that would provide access to the site and once developed would eventually connect East Marina Crest Lane to the west of the project. This extension of Marina Crest Lane would create a connector between Wisconsin Avenue and Dakota Avenue.

Jan Metzmaker also raised concerns about the traffic congestion on Wisconsin Avenue and questioned whether the development is the right choice.

“People don’t like nightly rentals,” she said. “Places like this don’t build community. People are only there part-time.”

Pam Sparr, who lives on Dakota Avenue, also voiced concerns about the density and traffic for surrounding neighborhoods pointing out that connecting Wisconsin to Dakota will mean an increase in traffic for Dakota Avenue.

“What does this mean for Dakota not just for Wisconsin,” she asked.

City planning staff is recommending the developer work with the Montana Department of Transportation and city Public Works to install a pedestrian activated light at the crosswalk on Wisconsin Avenue, which is a secondary state highway under the authority of the MDT.

A traffic study conducted by WGM Group was submitted as part of the developers application to the city. The study says the development will not negatively impact traffic operations on Wisconsin Avenue, and no roadway improvements are needed as a result.

Planning Board member and City Councilor Richard Hildner pointed out that the city recently adopted a housing plan aimed at increasing affordable workforce housing here.

Talking to the developer of the project, Hildner said he would like to see some of the housing units for folks who work in Whitefish.

“Can you help us get to where we need to be?” he asked

Will MacDonald, representing Wisconsin Development Partners, said he couldn’t guarantee who would purchase homes in the development noting that units could be used as vacation rentals. He said the condominiums may open up the opportunity for those not looking to purchase a house.

“Prices are going to vary,” he said. “We can’t guarantee who will buy, but we do want to try to create a place where people want to live.”

City Council is set to hold a public hearing on the request on Dec. 4 at City Hall.

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