Whitefish Planning Board Approves Downtown Hotel

City Council to decide conditional use permit for construction at Feb. 2 meeting

By Tristan Scott

WHITEFISH – The Whitefish Planning Board on Jan. 15 approved a conditional use permit to build a prominent boutique hotel at the gateway of downtown Whitefish.

The planning board, which approved the permit in a 5-2 vote after lengthy debate, made the decision less than a month after telling developers that more time was needed to review additional information and address concerns about parking, wastewater and encroachment on nearby neighborhoods.

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 and 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 a public hearing because it wanted time to review new information presented by the applicant during the meeting, and also 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 developers have since addressed the issues, satisfying most members of the planning board.

The Board also requested additional information about how developers would manage contaminated groundwater at the site and whether they could develop the parking area so that all traffic would exit and enter from East 3rd Street. There was also concern about 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 needed 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.

Local businesses and even other hoteliers said they thought the new hotel would be a good addition to downtown Whitefish, where accommodations for visitors are lacking.

The Whitefish City Council will consider the matter at its Feb. 2 meeting.

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