City approves affordable housing development

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City Council unanimously approved the 58-lot Trail View subdivision planned for near the intersection of Monegan and Voerman roads. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

Whitefish City Council has approved a proposal to develop a completely affordable housing project in the city.

Council on May 21 unanimously approved the 58-lot Trail View subdivision planned for near the intersection of Monegan and Voerman roads. Developers have agreed to provide 100 percent of the project as affordable — with homes both as traditional deed restricted based on income and homes for local workers.

Jerry Dunker, who is developing the project, said the Whitefish Housing Authority would handle sales ensuring they will be kept as affordable forever under the deed restrictions.

“These are not second homes and they are not rentals,” Dunker said. “One member of the household must live in city limits, and resale is only to another qualified buyer.”

The property is currently vacant. A preliminary plat and planned unit development calls for the site to be developed in three phases with two- and three-story homes.

During two public meetings prior to the decision, Council heard concerns from neighbors largely about the increased traffic the development could create and impact that would have on surrounding neighborhoods.

Councilor Andy Feury said he understands the neighbors’ concerns, but noted that the same issue were brought up in 2001 when the nearby Creekwood was proposed.

“This is the classic example of the problem with affordable housing,” he said. “Everybody wants it, nobody wants it next door.”

“We really need houses in this community that people can actually live in,” he added. “If we deny, we are going to have another subdivision proposed before too long, and there will be 35 homes and they will be between $500,000 and $1 million.”

Whitefish’s affordable workforce housing study in 2016, found that the city needs to add 980 new affordable units by 2020, and a little under half of those should be ownership housing.

Stephen Flink, with Bryant Flink Architecture and Design, is providing technical assistance for the project. He said new homes being constructed in Whitefish now are not for the local workforce. He noted that Trail View would provide 15 percent of that need identified for in the study.

“The homes in Trail View will target the local workforce,” he said.

During public comment, Laura Hutton, who is a speech language therapist, said she wants to make her home in Whitefish, but home ownership has been nearly impossible and Trail View would be a neighborhood where she could afford to buy a house. “This will enable folks like myself to finally put down roots in the community that we love,” she said.

Development of Tail View is planned to begin with the north 13 lots, then central 30 lots and then the southerly 15 lots. The plan calls for homes ranging from 900 to 1,300 square feet in clusters of 10 homes surrounding open spaces.

For open space, the project would go above what is required with a dedication to the city of 1.56 acres to the north end of the development and a 20-foot trail easement along the western boundary that would connect a public trail to the city’s Rocksund Trail.

No improvements are planned to Monegan Road as the city is planning improvements to the sewer treatment plant to the south and plans to reconstruct Monegan as part of that project. Trail View is expected to pay its share of those improvements and dedicate 10-feet of right-of-way along Monegan, which is currently at a sub-standard width of 40 feet.

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