County to Discuss Proposed Zoning Change for Property Along U.S. 93

Kalispell, Whitefish oppose plan, say it could open door to additional commercial development

By Justin Franz
Flathead County is discussing a proposed zoning change for a piece of property along U.S. Highway 93 across from the landfill. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

On Feb. 14, the Flathead County planning board will discuss a proposed zoning change on a 19.4-acre piece of land along U.S. Highway 93 between Kalispell and Whitefish from suburban agricultural to light industrial.

The move could pave the way for additional development on the plot of land located east of the highway across from the county landfill. The property’s owners, Paul and Heather McDonald of Scottsdale, Arizona, are asking for about 14 acres to be changed to light industrial, known as I-1H, and the remaining five be zoned SAG-5 or suburban agricultural. The land is currently suburban agricultural SAG-10.

Paul McDonald said he has no immediate plans to develop the land, but noted that the change in zoning would allow for future development. He also said designating it light industrial complies with the county’s development plan.

But both Kalispell and Whitefish have come out against the proposal over fears that it would encourage unrestrained development along the highway and diminish the Highway 93 corridor’s scenic quality. In statements submitted by the Kalispell Planning Department, city officials noted that allowing such a change could open the floodgates to additional requests. Officials also raised concerns about traffic.

“Preventing the continuation of one long commercial/industrial strip from Kalispell to Whitefish along Highway 93 North is a community-wide priority,” the planning department wrote.

The Whitefish Planning Department also submitted a comment that echoed Kalispell’s and called for the zoning request to be denied.

McDonald said he has family ties to the Flathead Valley and would only want to develop the piece of land in a responsible manner that complements the surrounding area. He also noted that if he does choose to eventually develop it, he would want to make it a place where locally owned businesses could find a home.

A public hearing on the zoning request will be held during the Feb. 14 planning board meeting at 6 p.m. in the second floor conference room of the South Campus Building, 40 11th Street West, Suite 200, Kalispell.

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