Property at south gateway to town set for annexation

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City Council recently conditionally annexed the 5.4 acres of land that sits at the northeast corner of the U.S. Highway 93 and Montana 40 intersection. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

A piece of property at the southern gateway to Whitefish will likely become part of the city.

City Council last week conditionally annexed the 5.4 acres of land that sits at the northeast corner of the U.S. Highway 93 and Montana 40 intersection. The property is undeveloped and contains several large trees.

Edward T. Baur of the Baur Family Partnership, owners of the property, petitioned for annexation requesting conditional annexation that only becomes effective if the city rezones the property to WB-2 from Flathead County zoning.

Dave DeGrandpre, a land use planner representing the owners, said that prior to the ending of the city’s extra-jurisdictional zoning, known as the doughnut, the property was zoned WB-2 and the owner would like it to be zoned as such again.

When the city in 2007 adopted it growth policy, however, the property was designated as suburban residential, which generally corresponds to residential zoning districts.

City Attorney Angela Jacobs said there is nothing in Montana law that either authorizes or forbids conditional annexation.

Council is required, Jacobs noted, by state and local law to determine that proposed zoning is “made in accordance with a growth policy,” thus the owner has concerns that the property would not be rezoned in a manner consistent with its current county zoning of secondary business.

“I do have concerns that allowing it will create a precedent for other property owners who wish to annex but only if they obtain the zoning they desire,” Jacobs said. “I would point out, however, that the petitioner’s situation was created, in part, by the city’s designation of the property as suburban residential in the 2007 growth policy even though it had been zoned WB-2 for years.”

Councilor Richard Hildner expressed concern for the future of the property as being developed for a commercial use.

“Once we had a forest corner there and now we could have an asphalt corner there,” Hildner said.

Planning Director Dave Taylor pointed out that once the property is annexed, the owners will have to follow the city’s building, site and landscaping standards if it’s developed.

“At least the city will now be able to review the plan,” he said. “Now with it under the county we have no say.”

When several large trees on the property were cut down last summer, the visual change for the entrance to Whitefish was called “heartbreaking” by some.

City Council in the past has resisted extending its extension of services plan to include areas south of the Highway 93 and Montana 40 junction. Council in April 2018 approved an update to its plan rejecting extending it farther south. The plan, which looks at how growth is likely to occur in the next decade, is considered a guide for how the city will provide services to areas that are not currently served and for territories that may eventually be annexed,

Councilor Frank Sweeney, however, last week said he’d like to revisit that plan again to examine extending it farther to the south.

Council also:

• Approved a conditional use permit to allow Heidi Schley-Jacobson to construct an accessory apartment at 1660 W. Lakeshore Drive.

• Approved a conditional use permit request from Don Kaltschmidt to add 2,250 square feet to an existing building at the Don K car dealership on Highway 93.

• Approved an ordinance rezoning land located at 800, 902 and 1000 Wisconsin Avenue from WB-1 and WRR-1 to all WB-1. The three lots are a half-acre in size containing a vacant car wash and coffee stand, and the other two are vacant.

• Approved an update to city code regarding weeds to add noxious weeds that were missing from the list. The change makes the city’s list match the county and state lists.

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