Plan looks to change future use for 70-acre chunk on 93

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A proposed neighborhood plan for 70 acres fronting Highway 93 South has been submitted to the city. The plan boundary runs south from Park Knoll Lane to JP Road. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

A proposal submitted to the city could impact the future development of one of the larger swaths of mostly undeveloped land on the south side of Whitefish.

Whitefish 57 LLC and Eagle Enterprises have submitted a request for a 70-acre neighborhood plan that would change the land use designations for an area bordered to the east by Highway 93 South, to the north by Park Knoll Lane and to the south by JP Road. The request for the neighborhood plan that could become an amendment to the city’s growth policy is set to go before the Planning Board for a public hearing on Jan. 18.

Marie Hedman and Don Kaltschmidt are listed as the owners of the properties as part an application with the city.

The neighborhood plan looks to change the existing suburban and rural growth policy designations to urban and multi-family designations, along with about 25 acres of the plan area being designated for open space.

Densities for the properties could be in the range of 300 to 350 residential units with commercial designations along the highway frontage, according to the applicant. If approved, the neighborhood plan would only change the land use designations on the area and any development would have to first get approval for a zoning change, subdivision or planned unit development before moving ahead.

The applicant notes in their request that if the neighborhood plan is approved, the zoning and development process would begin within one year. In addition, the application says the if the land use designations are changed, the urban residential area would be proposed to be zoned as one- and two-family residential, the multi-family residential area as high density multi-family residential, the commercial as secondary business and the open space as agricultural.

There is no conceptual plan yet, but the applicants “wish to secure this amendment to the Growth Policy before moving to the next steps of developing conceptual plans and working through the zoning and subdivision process,” according to documents filed with the city.

An early plan map as part of the neighborhood plan, shows a potential for an extension of Baker Avenue through the property that would connect Park Knoll Lane and JP Road. In the eastern portion of the property is proposed for commercial use on both the north and south sides of the First Baptist Church, though the lot where the church is located is not part of the plan.

To the east of what could become an extension of Baker Avenue, the plan calls for multi-family housing and urban residential properties. Then it calls for a swath of open space and park for 25 acres that would include 14 acres of wetlands and would include public access trails.

To the far western portion the plan sets for urban residential.

The application describes the proposed plan noting that much of the density would be on the east half of the property, while the west half would include a large open space area and single-family residential area.

“The proposed land use pattern should blend with the neighboring rural land uses,” the applicant says.

A traffic study notes that full build-out of the project would produce up to 4,300 new daily vehicle trips and could prompt the need for a traffic single at the Highway 93 and Park Knoll Lane intersection.

As part of the plan, the applicants note that they are committing to 10 percent of the project becoming affordable housing and that a “major goal of the plan is to provide affordable housing to the community.” They say they have been working with Habitat for Humanity as a partner in creating affordable single-family and townhouse homeownership, and would be interested in working with the Whitefish Housing Authority on affordable multi-family housing.

The applicants note they have met with neighbors of the plan area to get input on the plan.

Dennis and Gail Kennedy, who reside on Brimestone Drive in the Great Northern Heights subdivision, in a letter to the city said they are in opposition to the plan.

“This new development would destroy the wildlife habitat, scenic views and vistas and the neighborhood scale, all stated goals of the City’s Growth Policy,” they said in their letter.

They say their priority concern is the development of the Hedman property that could be changed to urban residential. They note that the major portions of the Hedman property are wetlands and development would be in opposition of the city’s growth policy to ensure environmental protection.

They say the Hedman property should be preserved for its rural character, value as wildlife habitat, open space and views.

The Planning Board meets Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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