Ben Davis has become familiar with Whitefish city government while working on issues related to the city’s lack of affordable workforce housing.
He says he’s running for City Council for the same reason he’s been working on housing issues — to contribute to his community.
“I love this town,” he said. “It’s a wonderful place and it’s important that it stays that way. I want to make sure that we’re taking care of the folks that live in this town.”
Davis is the chair of the Whitefish Housing Authority board of directors, chair of the city’s Strategic Housing Steering Committee and on the Board of Adjustments. He also serves on the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
Davis moved here more than a half dozen years ago from Florida after several previous trips visiting Whitefish. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Florida. He is one of the owners of Seven Hills Construction, where he manages the company’s projects as a residential-focused general contractor.
He says he’s at a place in his life where he wants to contribute to the community and be part of efforts that continue to keep Whitefish a wonderful place.
Davis says his professional life and volunteer experience working on affordable housing has given him experience in an area that Council spends a lot of time dealing with — planning and zoning.
“Council works on zoning and development issues,” he said. “I can provide a lot of experience when it comes to that in the context of Council.”
Davis says Whitefish is on the right track when it comes to creating affordable workforce housing by creating a housing plan and working on the steps to implement that plan, but the outcomes of that work are still to be realized. He notes that real estate and development take years to occur and it will take time for the program to realize affordable housing as a result.
“Success is measured in years,” he said. “The city and community made a good plan and is following through right now on that, but the work is not through yet.”
If elected to Council, Davis says he will be required to resign from the Whitefish Housing Authority board, but he says housing is an issue he plans to continue to work on no matter what.
He says the city’s inclusionary zoning housing program that requires all new residential development to include 20% deed-restricted affordable housing is just the beginning of the work for affordable housing and it will be important for the city to continue implementing other initiatives to bring housing.
Davis says one of his goals, if elected, is to ensure that the city is making changes to its zoning codes to ensure they are working in the right way for the town.
“It’s critically important for the city to have growth management,” he said. “There are examples where planning could have been done better and the code is one of those subjects that can be looked at.”
He says while Whitefish has done a lot to plan for growth, more can always be done.
“For a town as popular as Whitefish you can’t stop growth,” he said. “That’s concerning, but you have to make sure your priorities are to keep growing in a way that works for those that live here.”
Davis says the city’s public process is open and there’s no merit to a lawsuit filed recently against the city claiming that it illegally closed meetings to the public.
Attending public meetings, Davis says, is how he first got involved with working on issues pertaining to housing and why he continues to do so.
“The process is open to the public,” Davis said. “I would like to see citizens play a larger role by more attending meetings and providing input.”
Water and Sewer Rates
Davis said the city’s required upgrades of its wastewater and water treatment plants is related to the influx of use that occurs at peak times.
Davis says he has some ideas to shift some of the burden from individual homeowners to others like hotels that increase the peak usage in the summer.
“Most of the time we don’t use the peak usage amount, but our system has to be based on that,” he said. “I want to look at if part of our infrastructure costs can be placed on those that are causing the peak usage — that seems like an equitable solution.”
Whitefish is conducting a mail-ballot election for the city election. Ballots will be mailed on Oct. 16 and must be returned to the Flathead County Election Department office by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 5, signed by the name of the voter on the envelope.
Five candidates are seeking three open City Council positions.