Kalispell City Council members gave a mixed response Monday night to a request by executives for grocery store chain Super 1 Foods to figure out how to erect a sign along Main Street, should the company wish to open a new store in the old Tidyman’s building.
While council members expressed a strong desire to have a grocery store open on a large piece of downtown Kalispell property that has been sitting vacant for three years, they were also concerned that changing city sign laws for Super 1 Foods would result in every business owner in town located off of Main Street clamoring for a similar rule change to have a sign on the city’s main thoroughfare.
“If we allow this then we are actually opening up for the entire sign ordinance to go by the wayside,” Councilman Jim Atkinson said. “I think we have to look at the bigger picture and we can’t deny any other signs if we allow this, as far as I’m concerned.”
Despite the high profile location of the Tidyman’s building, it isn’t located along Main Street and owns no property along Main Street for a sign. Tidyman’s used large wall signs and donated land to the city as an easement in 1992 so that no structure could be built that would obscure a view of Tidyman’s from Main Street.
Super 1 Food executives have made clear that freestanding signage along Main Street – either by purchasing a strip of land, swapping with the city or figuring out some way to erect the sign on Depot Park property – is an important part of any decision to locate in Tidyman’s. The proposed sign would be a 15-foot tall “monument-style” with 50 square feet of sign area, located on a strip of land just north of the war memorial.
But any arrangement by which Super 1 Foods would be able to put up a sign along Main Street creates myriad complications, including the fact that there is no precedent for putting a private sign on city park land; such signs are no longer permitted so close to the intersection of Main and Idaho Streets; the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce would have to give its consent depending on the new sign’s location; certain sign ordinance changes are necessary; and if the city wanted to sell the land to Super 1 Foods, it may have to hold a public auction at which Super 1 is the high bidder.
Mayor Pam Kennedy said she hoped Super 1 Foods would seriously consider moving into the location, which would be in addition to the grocery chain’s current Evergreen location, even if erecting a sign on Main Street isn’t possible due to all the complications involved.
“I have real concerns when we would have so many different items that we would have to correct for one specific business,” Kennedy said. “I’m just worried that we’re opening up Pandora’s box.”
No formal votes are allowed at a work session, so it was unclear what the council’s consensus view on the sign issue was, but Kennedy told the Super 1 representatives it was up to them whether they wanted to follow through with a formal sign request.
After the meeting, Randy McIntire, whose family owns the land, said he did not know how serious Super 1 Foods is about moving into the location, and so he didn’t know whether any possible deal would hinge on the absence or presence of a sign on Main Street. No provisional contracts have been signed by Super 1 Foods, he said, and if the grocery chain did move in they would lease the land.
“They’ve worked for three years trying to sell the land or get somebody to lease it,” McIntire said. “Visibility of the property has been an issue with everyone that’s looked at it.”
“At some point, you’ve got to do something with it,” he added.
The council also discussed a hiring procedure plan for the new city manager. Human Resources Director Terry Mitton has recommended raising the salary range for the new city manager from $81,553-$114,175 to $95,000-$125,000. Councilman Bob Hafferman suggested offering a salary of $80,000 for the first year with a performance-based bonus of up to $20,000.
Council also finalized the job description for the city manager position, and its intention to begin advertising the opening. The city hopes to begin advertising the position opening this month and appoint ten citizens to help serve on a selection committee. That committee will reduce the candidate pool to 20 applicants or less in January, and start interviews to reduce the candidate pool to 10 in February.
The council would then select candidates to interview, make a selection and negotiate a contract in March.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.