Revised Parking District Proposed for Flathead High School Neighborhoods

Another public hearing is scheduled for January over potential parking restrictions

By Dillon Tabish

Hoping to settle age-old tensions over congested streets near Flathead High School, city planners in Kalispell are proposing a revised parking district that would require residential permits along five blocks with the potential for adding restrictions along more streets in the future.

Under the latest proposal, which the city’s Planning Board reviewed on Dec. 9, the resident-only parking restrictions would apply to the neighborhood blocks nearest to the high school and would set aside 108 parking spaces for residential-use only from late August through early June.

The restrictions would be in place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Only residents or homeowners within the district would be able to purchase permits or guest passes to park along the streets. City police officers would enforce the district and cite violators. The city has not yet estimated a potential cost for each permit.

The initial restrictions would be placed along Third Avenue West and Fourth Avenue West, south of Fifth Street West and north of Ninth Street West, within the designated district near Flathead High School. Additional restrictions could be placed on all avenues south of Fifth Street West near Elrod Elementary School unless the school district expands parking on site.

Under the current proposal, residents along other streets near the school could petition to add restrictions by gathering signatures from 75 percent of the block’s property owners. The city could also remove restrictions from streets that do not sell enough permits annually. Each street would need to sell at least 11 permits out of the 22 possible parking spaces to maintain the permitting system.

A public hearing is slated for Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. inside City Hall. The planning board will take comments before making a recommendation to pass along to the city council, which has the final say over whether to approve the district.

“We’re trying to come to grips with how to best manage in the short term and long term the issues around the high school involving parking,” said Tom Jentz, Kalispell’s Planning and Building Director. “Ideally, now after two years, we need to move this on to the city council and we can’t do that until we’ve vetted it properly.”

City planners returned to the drawing board after a lengthy public hearing in October that echoed the concerns of school officials and neighborhood residents, who have debated the issue for years.

School administrators disagree with the severity of the problem and worry that the new restrictions could deter students from attending school by forcing them to park further away and also create safety issues.

“I think that we’re starting to solve some things we don’t need to solve,” said Dan Zorn, assistant superintendent in Kalispell School District 5.

Residents in the neighborhood disagree, citing a dearth of parking and other disruptions related to the high school, including garbage and obstructed services such as snow plowing and leaf pickup.

“A survey was taken of residents in those neighborhoods and 97 percent were in favor of the district. That has to say that there’s a problem,” said Bernie Windauer, who said he has lived in the neighborhood near the high school since 1989.

The city’s new proposal, called the Westside Neighborhood Parking Management District, features less initial restrictions than a previous draft but also includes a set of guidelines for adding more streets in the future.

“The concept was to start small,” said Jentz.

The latest plan shows the potential for the school district to create new parking spaces at the elementary school that could eliminate the need for restrictions from Fifth Street West to the north boundary of the designated district. These spaces could be added to the south side of the school and eight spaces would be added where 15-minute parking is currently provided.

If the school district opts not to add the spaces, the restrictions could be extended to both sides of Third Avenue West and Fourth Avenue West, north of Fifth Street West, according to the plan.

Also, the plan seeks new spots added at Flathead High School, where an additional 20 spaces could be created east of the staff parking area and eight to 11 spaces on Sixth Street.

To view the proposed plan, visit here.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.