Wednesday, May 18, 2022
49.0°F

Council considers Big Mountain Road development

by HEIDI DESCH
Daily Inter Lake | January 17, 2022 12:00 AM

Whitefish City Council on Tuesday will consider a large-scale mixed-used development straddling Big Mountain Road.

Developers behind the Mountain Gateway project are requesting a planned unit development and conditional zoning for the property.

The council is meeting on Tuesday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Monday. The meeting begins at 7:10 p.m. at Whitefish City Hall and is also available online.

Arim Mountain Gateway LLC is requesting the PUD that would allow for the housing on the property to include 318 residential units on 32.7 acres at the intersection of Big Mountain Road and East Lakeshore Drive. Developers are also asking to rezone just under 4 acres on East Lakeshore Drive with blended residential and limited business district zoning to allow for a neighborhood commercial development.

The developer updated portions of the plan following two public hearings before the Whitefish Planning Board this fall that included heavy opposition to the project.

The project still calls for 270 apartment units, but the number of townhouses has been increased to 36 units and the number of condominium units has been decreased to 12 units.

Several comments have been made about the project not providing enough affordable housing. The developer is volunteering to participate in the city’s Legacy Homes Program, originally agreeing to provide 32 deed-restricted rental units.

Now, the developer is also including a land gift of 8.8 acres on the east side of Big Mountain Road for the purpose of affordable housing. The property would be donated to a nonprofit that develops permanently affordable housing and has the potential to be developed with 48 units.

A nonprofit group called Flathead Families for Responsible Growth was formed in response to the project, saying it will negatively impact water quality, traffic and the small-town way of life in Whitefish.

However, those speaking in favor of the project say they support the affordable housing units that are planned, along with constructing necessary rental housing for the community.

Comments on the project through written letters and emails make up about 750 pages of the City Council’s meeting packet for the evening.

ON THE WEST side of Big Mountain Road the project proposes a 270-unit rental community with 460 parking spaces. Two buildings with common open space are proposed to be clustered in the center of the property.

Two vehicle access points to the apartments will be via Big Mountain Road with another access point on East Lakeshore Drive near the north end of the project.

On the east side of Big Mountain Road, the project proposes 12 condo units at the north end and 36 townhouse units in the central portion with access off Big Mountain Road.

About 10 acres of open space is planned throughout the project along with developed recreation areas and a trail running along the west side of Big Mountain Road connecting to the existing Wisconsin Avenue bike path on the south end.

On the east side of Big Mountain Road, the developer has set aside a location for a SNOW bus stop. On the west side of Big Mountain Road, the plans call for dedicating 1.5 acres for a future fire station.

Gross density of the entire site is proposed at 9.72 dwelling units per acre. By the right, the site could be developed with 374 units or 561 units offering 10% affordable housing with a PUD.

By providing the housing and the land for the fire station, the developer is seeking a zoning deviation that would allow for four stories within the 40-foot building height limit for portions of the multi-family buildings. The standard is three stories.

During a work session at 6:15 p.m. prior to the regular meeting, Council will meet with the Climate Action Plan Committee to discuss the potential for a community solar project at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

In addition to in-person at City Hall, the meeting is available to view and comment via Webex. Instructions can be found on the city’s website at https://www.cityofwhitefish.org/

Features editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or hdesch@dailyinterlake.com.