Christian academy expansion back on board’s agenda

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After a two-month deferral at the school’s request, the Whitefish Planning Board on Thursday will hold a public hearing to consider an 11,000-square-foot addition to the existing school at 820 Ashar Ave.

The applicant requested more time to determine if the school could accommodate the city’s request that Whitefish Christian Academy handle the development cost of upgrading street infrastructure, according to Planning Director Dave Taylor.

Due to the increase in use, the Public Works Department is requesting as a condition of approval that East Eighth Street be upgraded to a local street section, which is a two-way street with curb and gutter on both sides, according to the Planning Office staff report. This also will include a sidewalk with a 6-foot boulevard on one side of the road. The design also requires additional right of way on the west.

The infrastructure improvements will need to be completed before a building permit can be issued, according to the report.

The city also is asking the school for additional information on traffic impacts from the proposed expansion, as a condition of approval.

Five years ago the private school got permission to install two temporary classrooms on the west side of the school. At the time, Whitefish Christian Academy officials intended to rebuild in a new location outside of Whitefish, so the city building official “was comfortable” allowing [the temporary classrooms] for up to four years.

The school’s board of directors ultimately decided expanding on the existing campus is their best option.

The addition would include a two-story addition for classrooms, administration space, bathrooms and an auditorium/cafeteria.

The school has grown through the years since its first classes were held in the basement of First Baptist Church of Whitefish in 1980. By 1989 two benefactors gifted the school with the Ashar Avenue property and construction began on the current facility. Additional classrooms were added in 1996.

The first ninth-grade class began in 2015 with four students. According to the school’s website, a grade has been added each year, with the first graduating class completing their education this year.

The Planning Board’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Whitefish City Council for another public hearing and a final vote on Oct. 7.

The Planning Board meets at 6 p.m. Thursday at Whitefish City Hall.

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

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