Meetings focus on affordable housing for city’s snow lot

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The city’s snow lot at the corner of Railway Street and Columbia Avenue. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

Whitefish is hosting a series of meetings designed to gather input on developing the city’s snow lot for affordable housing.

The first meeting this week will kick off the process and then subsequent meeting are planned to gather input on design for the project and a presentation on design options. The first meeting is Thursday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

The snow lot, named because the city stores snow there removed from downtown, is at the corner of Columbia Avenue and Railway Street. It has also been used as a central recycling site and sometimes for overflow parking.

Homeword, a nonprofit community housing development organization out of Missoula that has been providing affordable housing across Montana since 1994, will be the consultant engaging the community in this design process.

The goal of the effort is to create homes residents of Whitefish can afford with an area median incomes averaging $40,000 to $53,400 per year, City Manager Adam Hammatt said in a press release. The city of Whitefish, the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, and the Whitefish Housing Authority for the last few years have been working to tackle the issue of affordable housing. A housing needs study was conducted in 2016 followed by a strategic housing plan completed the next year that identified the snow lot as a place to develop affordable housing.

The kick-off meeting will be followed by two community design charrette meetings. Those are set for Wednesday, Sept. 19 and Thursday, Sept 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall lobby.

Once the design charrette meetings are complete and the consultants have completed their work, they are expected to present design options for the site. That presentation is set for Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers.

City Council this spring rezoned the lot to high multi-family residential. About 1.47 acres of the property was rezoned because the westerly 30 feet of the property includes right-of-way for Columbia Avenue.

Council also previously amended the Whitefish Urban Renewal Plan modifying the boundaries of the Urban Renewal District to include the snow lot and approved affordable housing as an urban renewal project, a move which would allow Council to direct the spending of tax increment finance dollars toward a project on the property.

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