Developers Pitch Scaled-Down Version of Whitefish Subdivision

By Beacon Staff

Plans to develop a housing subdivision off East Second Street in Whitefish have resurfaced in the form of a new downsized proposal with half as many units and less open space.

Seven months after withdrawing a larger project that came under fire from neighborhood residents, Will MacDonald and Sean Averill of Community Infill Partners have submitted yet another scaled-down version to the city seeking a zone change and approved building plan that would allow the suburban development to move forward.

Pitching their fourth revised proposal in a year, MacDonald and Averill want to establish a 62-lot subdivision featuring 54 single-family lots and eight townhouse lots on 23.78 acres of land on the east side of Whitefish. The targeted site, located at 100 Wild Rose Lane east of Memorial Park on the north side of the East Second Street and Armory Road intersection, has two homes situated on an open field within city limits.

The developers are asking the city to rezone the property from an agriculture district to an “estate residential district,” which would allow for more single-family, large-tract housing that is typically found in suburban areas. MacDonald and Averill are also asking for approval of a planned unit development (PUD) that would overlay the subdivision and outline the details of the project.

The Whitefish City-County Planning Board is holding a public hearing Thursday, April 17, and the city council will hold a subsequent hearing May 19.

According to a staff report drawn up by the city’s planning department, Whitefish’s growth policy has identified the site as an acceptable suburban neighborhood and the land surrounding the property is already zoned suburban or urban residential.

Previous versions of the development have come under heavy scrutiny from residents who complained that the proposed subdivision would be too dense and create neighborhood and public safety issues. As a result, the developers reduced the plan from 174 units, including 164 apartments, to 150 units with 112 apartments, and then again to 143 units with 92 apartments. But the proposal still ran into strong pushback and led the group to withdraw the overall proposal last September.

The new proposal reduces the potential for large apartment space. It also does not seek an increased “density bonus” that would have required the subdivision to feature affordable housing options.

The group is proposing to set aside 30 percent of the site, or 7.13 acres, for open space. This is less than previous amounts, which reached as much as 70 percent. The new proposal includes a “tot lot,” a half-court basketball court and a series of trails that would wind throughout the site. The project would also create a stream and wetland buffer as an open space parkland that would be dedicated to the city, according to the city’s staff report.

As part of the PUD, a new city right-of-way is proposed that would extend Armory Road to the north to serve the subdivision. As part of the developers’ application, a traffic impact study was conducted and found that the new housing would have little impact on the surrounding road system, according to the city’s staff report.

In exchange for the zoning deviations, the developers are proposing to provide both a sewer and water easement from East Second St. to the north edge of the property; establish all trails in the property as open to the public; and create a parkland dedicated to the city along Cow Creek. According to city staff, plans have been in the works for several years to extend a sewer line along Cow Creek under the railroad tracks in order to gravity flow wastewater for a large portion of the city on the north side of the tracks.

“The character of this development will be greatly changed from a rural pastoral appearance to a single family development,” city planners wrote in their staff report detailing the proposed project. “The applicant has designed the project to blend into the existing neighborhood.”

To read the city’s staff report on the proposal, visit www.cityofwhitefish.org/mayor-and-city-council/agenda-info-2014.php

Correction: This story previously stated the proposed open space amount in the latest plan was more than earlier plans. The latest proposal of 30 percent is a smaller amount than previous versions of the plan, which included up to 70 percent of open space.

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