Whitefish adds to review process for hotels, gas stations

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Cars drive along U.S. Highway 93. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot file)

Hotels and gas stations will now have to undergo additional review to operate along the U.S. Highway 93 corridor.

Businesses over 10,000 square feet in size also in the WB-2 secondary business zone will also have to go through review and obtain a conditional use permit.

City Council last week approved changes to the zoning code for the WB-2 zoning district involving conditional use permit standards. The zone is generally found along U.S. 93 and is intended for large scale retail stores and services.

The city-initiated changes appeared to have been prompted by concern about future development along the corridor.

Councilor Andy Feury praised the decision.

“This has been talked about for two years now, not in anticipation to something happening and it’s something we’ve discussed,” he said. “I’m glad we got around to it.”

Though no application for a CUP has been submitted to the city, Town Pump, which submitted a pre-application to the city’s Architectural Review Committee, appears to be looking at a location on the northeast corner of U.S. 93 and Montana 40. The location is in the WB-2 zoning district.

Previously hotels, motels and automotive service stations with convenience stores were considered a use-by-right in the zoning district.

Also, buildings weren’t required to obtain a CUP until hitting 15,000 square feet in size.

Planning Director Dave Taylor said additional review for hotels and gas stations is reasonable because of the impacts both types of development can have.

He said hotels and motels can put pressure on city infrastructure such as water capacity and an impact on affordable housing by requiring a large number of low-wage service workers to operate.

Service stations, he noted, can create traffic impacts and add light pollution along with having large amounts of paved surface.

Review of buildings over 10,000 square feet, he said, would allow Council to better dictate how new development meets the goals and objectives of the city. New buildings and also expansion of existing buildings over the threshold would require review.

Some of the buildings with the largest square footage in the WB-2 zone includes The WAVE at 43,482 square feet; Safeway at 52,578 feet; and the Pin and Cue at 20,924.

In a separate vote, Council also approved a change to increase the public notice distance from 150 feet to 300 feet and require posting of a sign on the property during the application for a CUP.

Montana law doesn’t have requirements for CUP notifications.

When the city recently implemented administrative CUPs for certain developments it created a notice range of 300 feet for those permits, thus the city chose to also increase the notice distance for all other CUP applications.

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