Planning Board to Review Proposed Downtown Whitefish Hotel

Project reconsidered after developers address parking concerns, storm water drainage and increased traffic

By Tristan Scott

The Whitefish Planning Board is slated to consider a proposal Jan. 15 to build a prominent boutique hotel at the gateway of downtown Whitefish less than a month after telling developers that more time was needed to review additional information.

The site of the proposed three-story, 89-room hotel, along with 67 parking spaces, is on the corner of Second Street and Spokane Avenue, directly south of the Whitefish Middle School. If approved, it would be built adjacent to the historic Old Town Central District, a residential neighborhood where some homeowners have raised concerns about the project’s scope.

On Dec. 18, the Planning Board unanimously approved a motion to continue the public hearing because it wanted time to review new information presented by the applicant at the meeting, and requested additional information both from the applicant and the City.

The new information included a revised site plan and a draft traffic study that the Board hadn’t had time to review.

The Board also requested additional information on the following topics: Management of contaminated groundwater at the site; closing the alley access onto Kalispell Avenue so that all traffic would exit and enter from East 3rd Street; and managing parking on residential streets.

The owner behind the current project is Sean Averill, of the Whitefish Hotel Group, who along with his brother Brian and father Dan Averill owns and operates The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

The Averills also own the site where the hotel would be built, called Block 46, and they have lined up an investor to provide financing for the project.

Averill is seeking approval from the planning board because the size of the project requires a conditional use permit. The proposed building’s footprint is just shy of 15,000 square feet, and the site’s zoning district requires permitting for any building footprint that exceeds 7,500 square feet.

Adding a boutique hotel to the downtown area was an element of the Whitefish downtown master plan adopted in 2006, but earlier proposals at other sites have been unsuccessful for various reasons.

Wendy Compton-Ring, senior planner for Whitefish, recommended approval of the conditional use permit subject to 20 conditions, including that the project receive approval from the city’s Architectural Review Committee.

If approved at the Jan. 15 meeting, the Whitefish City Council will consider the matter at its Feb. 2 meeting.

Some Planning Board members expressed concern that the scale of the project was not a good fit with the historic integrity of Whitefish’s downtown center.

Scott Elden of Montana Creative Architecture and Design, the firm that is designing the building, said the style of the proposed hotel is “a locally developed unique design to suit our town” and will meet all guidelines of the Whitefish Architecture Review Committee.

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