Kalispell council to vote on urban renewal plan

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Tax-increment district would fund improvement projects

By HEIDI GAISER

Daily Inter Lake

The Kalispell City Council will make a major decision on the future of downtown when it votes tonight on the proposed Downtown Urban Renewal Plan.

The Planning Department’s presentation document says that “taken as a whole, implementation of all the recommendations contained in this plan would be transformative for downtown Kalispell.”

The downtown plan, the main item on the council agenda, is meant to address issues hindering the development and attractiveness of Kalispell’s central business district. It was adopted a year ago as an amendment to the growth policy, with the primary goal of creating a Tax Increment Financing District. Creating a tax-increment district would allow the city to use tax revenue for public infrastructure projects. It’s not a property tax, but “captures” the additional taxes from the district properties as they increase in value.

The plan focuses on alleviating the impacts caused by the fact that U.S. 93 cuts through the heart of the downtown area. According to the city proposal, the road is “placing emphasis upon vehicles and detracting from the perspective or experience of the pedestrian. The traffic generally discourages walking in the area of the city where walking should be encouraged.”

To counter the presence of the highway, the proposed Main Street redesign would include: re-establishing the historic center-lane landscape median north of the Flathead County Courthouse, extending from Eighth Street to Sixth Street; carrying the two-lane courthouse couplet design through downtown to the BN Railroad/Core Area Corridor; creating a center turn lane and allowing left turns at all intersections; widening sidewalks; increasing landscaping and trees; and incorporating lanes, routes and facilities for bicycles into the corridor.

Access to parking has also been determined to be a deterrent to luring people downtown. Creating a parking garage is one recommendation to increase parking, as well as analyzing the best use of surface parking lots. Restoring and maintaining Kalispell’s historic buildings are also key goals of the plan, with the upgrading of city water mains helping to accommodate the full use of historic buildings. The urban renewal plan also discourages the demolition of historically or culturally significant structures.

There are two more items on Monday night’s agenda. Ralph and Cheryl Turley are requesting a conditional-use permit for an auto-repair business within the core-area business zoning district at 749 Center St.

There will also be a first reading of an ordinance for the extension of the Westside Neighborhood Parking Management Zone. This ordinance would include the 700 block of Sixth Avenue West within the zone, which is adjacent to Flathead High School.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at City Hall council chambers, 201 First Ave. E.

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