Whitefish council considers big apartment project

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A plan to build seven apartment buildings on the former North Valley Hospital site tops an extensive public-hearing agenda at tonight’s Whitefish City Council’s meeting.

Riverbank Properties LLC is asking for a residential planned-unit development overlay to build the apartment buildings — each containing 32 to 34 units for a total of 234 apartments — on 11.8 acres.

The project, Riverbank Residences, calls for 90 studio apartments, 90 one-bedroom units and 54 two-bedroom units. Riverbank Properties would use the planned-unit development provisions of the city zoning code to facilitate the land use and density, according to the application.

William A. MacDonald is the applicant; the property owner is listed as Mike Goguen on the application.

The Whitefish Planning Board considered the proposal at its Nov. 15 meeting, but a motion to recommend approval the project failed on a 3-3 vote. The matter comes before the council without a Planning Board recommendation.

During the Planning Board public hearing, two people spoke in favor of the apartment project, while four people identified concerns including change in community character, removal of trees, traffic, rental rates, water usage, increase in city utility rates and whether the 20 percent affordable housing aspect of the project is truly a community benefit, according to City Manager Adam Hammatt’s report to the council.

All the studio and one-bedroom units will be priced to serve those making 80 percent or less of Area Median Income, which will fulfill the need identified in the 2016 city housing needs assessment, and would be priced for workforce housing.

The needs assessment indicated a need for 580 more rentals, of which 360 should be affordable, serving households with $40,000 or less annual income.

City planning staff has recommended adding several conditions to the project, including the requirement for a bus shelter at the site, a 310 permit from the Flathead Conservation District if any work is done within 20 feet from the top of the Whitefish River bank, and no short-term rentals within the development.

After postponing a decision for the redevelopment of the Lakestream Fly Shop property at 334 Central Ave., the council is poised to vote on a conditional-use permit request from Bill Goldberg to build a commercial mixed-use building with a 8,205-square-foot footprint. A conditional-use permit is required for buildings over 7,500 square feet in the Old Town Central District.

The building would feature three stories with ground-floor retail and a basement parking garage with 20 spaces.

The Planning Board recommended approval on a 4-2 vote.

Also on the hearing agenda is an ordinance approving a planned-unit development to build 38 apartments in three buildings on 2.15 acres at 524 and 530 Edgewood Place. This project is the recipient of $6.7 million in low income housing tax credits. All of the apartments are for households earning 60 percent or less of area median income. Homeword and the Whitefish Housing Authority are developing the project.

The council will consider an amendment to the preliminary plat and planned-unit development for the 95 Karrow project at the former Idaho Timber Co. property off U.S. 93 West.

The amendment would add club, private and semi-private recreation facilities to the list of permitted uses within the development, in order to accommodate a for-profit, privately operated wellness facility with a focus on recreation, education and medical services.

The council meets at 7:10 p.m. at Whitefish City Hall.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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