Bonsai brewery expansion plan goes before planning board

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A plan for the expansion of Bonsai Brewing Project heads Thursday before the Whitefish Planning Board.

The board meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Bonsai Brewing is seeking a conditional use permit to expand the operation. It currently operates a microbrewery and tasting room at 549 Wisconsin Ave., but is looking expand the microbrewery into a nearby building at 635 Denver St.

Brewery owners plan to move several aspects of their operation into the new building that is due east of the existing facility, including the kitchen and longterm storage of beer aging barrels, said Planning Director Dave Taylor in his staff report. The move is expected to provide more room in their existing building for brewery operations and the adjacent lot provides the opportunity for more on-site parking.

The brewery already has a conditional use permit, but the expansion requires it to obtain a new CUP.

Bonsai plans to add a detached walk-in freezer outside the newly obtained building. The brewery and tap room will continue to operate under State Liquor Board requirements, which set hours of operation to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and customers can be served a maximum of 48 ounces of beer per day.

In terms of parking, combined uses of the two buildings would require 23 total parking spaces and the owner shows 38 parking spaces on site.

“The extra spaces are prudent, as City parking requirements do no take into account capacity for outdoor seating areas, and Bonsai had parking issues in the neighborhood prior to their purchase of the adjacent lot for more parking,” Taylor says in the staff report.

Only about half of the existing parking area is paved, and the remainder will be required to be paved and landscaped per city zoning regulations.

The planning department is recommending approval of the request with eight conditions.

Four other public hearing are also on the agenda.

Eighth Street LLC is seeking a conditional use permit to develop a residential condominium triplex and convert an existing structure into a professional office at 144 W. Second St.

The site currently includes a building that was previously used as a hair salon and a parking lot. The proposal calls for turning the building into a professional office.

The triplex is proposed to be located at the top of the bank for the Whitefish River on the north portion of the lot. The developer plans to take advantage of the buffer reduction option that permits a reduction of the buffer with the river by 25 percent with a restoration plan. The building would be about 7.5 feet down from the top of the bank.

A conditional use permit is required because two uses are proposed on the site.

The planning department is recommending approval of the request with 10 conditions.

The city of Whitefish is proposing to amend its downtown master plan to show the future land use for the snow lot near Columbia Avenue and Railway Street as designated for multifamily residential housing rather than parking.

The Whitefish Strategic Housing Plan identifies development of the snow lot into workforce housing units as a top strategic priority. City Council in August directed city staff to begin the process to extend the tax increment financing boundary to include the snow lot so that TIF funds could be allocated to a possible housing project. The process to extend the TIF boundaries requires the Planning Board to review modification to the urban renewal plan to ensure conformity with the growth policy.

Hilary Lindh, city Long Range Planner, notes in her staff report that use of the snow lot for multifamily residential purposes would increase the diversity of residential types and densities east of Kalispell Avenue, and it could serve as a transition from the industrial railroad uses north and west of the lot to the residential uses to the south, which would “help maintain the character and small town feel of the community.”

Benefits of the change are listed as providing workforce housing, promoting the pedestrian character of downtown, promoting infill and adding diversity to the types of residential units downtown.

Costs include the loss of the vacant lot to be used for overflow and employee parking downtown. In addition, the city will have to find another lot for snow storage. Alternatives being considered including Memorial Park and the city shop on West 18th Street. Public Works estimates the cost to haul snow to Memorial Park at about 1.7 times the cost of using the current snow lot and the cost to use the city shop would be about four times the current cost. The increase comes primarily in fuel and trucking costs, the staff report notes.

Finally, two other public hearings deal with rezoning properties recently annexed into city limits. The first hearing includes 52 parcels in the Houston Drive area, where properties will be rezoned from county to city suburban residential zoning. The second hearing is on 24 parcels on Houston Drive and Duff Lane in the same area and will be converted from county one-family limited residential to estate residential district zoning.

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