Council OKs Muldown site

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An artist rendering of the new Muldown Elementary school building.

Whitefish City Council Monday approved the planned location for construction of a new Muldown Elementary building.

Council OK’d a conditional use permit allowing the Whitefish School District to construct a new school at Pine Avenue and East Seventh Street. A CUP is required because the property is zoned one-family residential.

The school district is planning to construct a new $26.5 million elementary school on the site that is west of the current Muldown building. Plans include a new school and gym at about 84,000-square-feet.

“Good luck with the project,” Mayor John Muhlfeld said after the approval.

Access to the new school is planned off East Seventh Street at a new entrance directly to the north of Ashar Avenue and at the existing parking lot, which will remain for drop-off for first- through fourth-grade students. A new parking lot at the corner of East Seventh Street and Pine Avenue area will remain at the north side of the school, but will be relocated slightly further south to provide a dedicated bus drive aisle area.

Councilor Frank Sweeney asked about the school district’s plan for the current Muldown building.

Dow Powell, the owner’s representative for the school district, said the plan is to demolish the portion of the building constructed in the 1960s, but retain two portions of the school and the gym.

The plan for the kindergarten wing is to make it available in the future for pre-kindergarten classes and retain the second- and third-grade wing for other uses.

“It will be repurposed,” Powell said of the portions of the building to be saved. “We have $1.6 million set aside in the budget to go toward the old Muldown.”

The project obtained three variances from the city Board of Adjustment. The variances will allow parking in the front yard setback, reducing the overall parking requirements and alleviate the landscaping screening for where the parking area abuts the residential zone.

Based upon city requirement, the school would have been required to provide 200 parking spaces on the site. However, a variance was granted allowing for 163 parking spaces plus 36 drop-off parking spaces. Currently, Muldown has 81 parking spaces plus 23 loading spaces.

For parking lots adjacent to a residential zone a landscape buffer is required including with a minimum of 5-feet wide and 5-feet high landscaping, or 5-feet wide with a 5-foot fence. The planned parking lot at the intersection of East Seventh Street and Pine has residential zone to the west and the south.

Because of safety concerns the school requested and was granted a variance to the buffer requirement requiring screening, but will still have to landscape the area.

The school district plans to break ground this fall on the new school building.

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