Neighborhood plan for Highway 93 S returns after update

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A neighborhood plan for 70 acres fronting U.S. Highway 93 South will return to the Whitefish Planning Board for a public hearing on Thursday after the developers redesigned their plan.

Whitefish 57 LLC and Eagle Enterprises originally submitted a plan for the acreage to the city, but pulled their application from City Council review in April. The planning board in March unanimously recommended denial of the proposed plan.

Several neighbors of the project raised objections to the original plan over impacts to wetlands and adjacent neighborhoods. A group of neighbors organized as the South Whitefish Neighborhood Association voicing their concerns for potential impacts as a result of the plan.

The revamped neighborhood plan remains at a total of 70 acres, however, the updated application narrows in on 35 acres on the eastern portion looking to change the land use designations only for that portion of the plan.

The new request pulls the plan back to the only the eastern half of the 70 acres and leaves the remaining land use designations on the western half intact, Senior Planning Wendy Compton-Ring notes in her staff report.

The plan no longer proposes to set aside 25 acres of open space for public access on the western portion of the neighborhood plan that contains a designated stormwater conveyance and wetlands. The previous plan also looked to designate the western most 9.7 acres as urban residential.

The western portion containing the wetlands will remain in private ownership, Compton-Ring notes, and will remain designated as suburban residential and rural, and future development of the area would require it to abide by city water quality standards.

The new plan calls for four different sections of commercial and residential development.

As was the same as the original application, Area 1 and Area 2 are designated as general commercial with zoning proposed to be secondary business district. Area 1, located in the northeast corner of the plan on Highway 93 at the Park Knoll Lane intersection, is 6.6 acres in size and currently undeveloped. Area 2 is about 6 acres and is located at the southeast corner of the plan currently developed with the former Austen’s funeral home building.

In the revised plan, Area 3 is designated as high density. The area parallels the future Baker Avenue extension called for the in the plan from the north edge of the plan boundary to the south edge of the plan. The section is 9.5 acres in size and is proposed to be zoned as high density multi-family residential. The previous plan had called for 15.5 acres of high density zoning.

Area 4, through the midsection of the property between Park Knoll and Great Northern Heights, is proposed to be zoned one-family residential. The section would be designated as urban and is about 11.9 acres. Previously the urban designation totaled 17.7 acres in the plan and was divided into three different locations.

Community benefits of the neighborhood plan are listed as 10 percent permanently affordable housing, the implementation of the city’s transportation plan for the area and avoiding environmentally sensitive areas.

The details of the affordable housing are still being worked out, Compton-Ring notes, but could include single-family residences, apartments and/or townhouses.

The applicant is technically applying to the city for a sub area plan because a neighborhood plan generally applies to an already developed neighborhood, according to the city. A sub area plan, under the city growth policy, allows for the “orderly development of primarily undeveloped land.”

If the sub area plan is eventually approved by City Council it would be an amendment to the growth policy and could allow the applicant to then apply for zone changes followed by development applications for the property.

At that time, Compton-Ring notes in her report, the developer would be obligated to meet all city development standards — zoning, subdivision, engineering standards and building code. None of those applications have been submitted to the city at this time.

Planning staff is recommending approval of the sub area neighborhood plan.

The planning board meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at City Hall.

Also on the agenda:

• A request by Robert and Heather MacCulloch for a conditional use permit to construct an accessory apartment on O’Brien Avenue.

• A request by the Whitefish School District to construct a new elementary school at Pine Avenue and East Seventh Street.

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