Whitefish Approves Railtown Gardens

By Beacon Staff

Whitefish may have a long railroad tradition, but it doesn’t quite know what to make of a little train that could fit through your front door.

At its Monday night meeting, the Whitefish City Council unanimously approved the first reading for the Railtown Gardens planned unit development, an innovative project that is proposing a community garden where people can lease planting spaces; a mixture of commercial and residential units with an emphasis on affordability; a microbrewery; a refurbished Rising Sun Bistro; and a 9-foot long train that would carry people through the property, among other features. The only concerns the councilors had involved the train, so they attached three amendments dealing with the train’s hours and noise levels.

Sen. Dan Weinberg and a development team led by design manager Scott Elden are heading up the project, which is located on 3.66 acres along Wisconsin Avenue between Denver Street and Colorado Avenue. Weinberg is emphasizing sustainability, affordability and fun, including the train, which would be used by the general public and residents of the development. Several neighbors and councilors alike, however, expressed concern over the train’s noise.

Elden stressed that the development team is working on a way to convert the current four-stroke engine of the locomotive into a quieter, environmentally friendly solar-powered one. One of the three amendments stipulates that the train can’t begin regular operation until the conversion occurs.

Overall, though, councilors were excited about the project.

“I’ve probably been waiting for 10 years for an imaginative development in Whitefish,” Councilor Shirley Jacobson said. “I think it’s just great. I love it.”

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