Whitefish Approves Zoning Amendment on U.S. 93 South Corridor

Council moves to shrink building threshold that triggers conditional use requirement

By Tristan Scott
U.S. Highway 93 south of Whitefish. Beacon File Photo

The Whitefish City Council on Dec. 2 approved a zoning amendment designed to add oversight on developments that place an outsized burden on municipal services, a move that will require conditional use permits for hotels, motels, service stations, and other hospitality uses that could spring up along the U.S. Highway 93 South corridor.

The council unanimously passed the zoning amendment in Whitefish’s secondary business district, reducing the bulk and scale building footprint size requirement that triggers a conditional use permit from 15,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet.

By reducing the development threshold that triggers additional review criteria, planning officials said they could better monitor and assess the city’s ability to accommodate future projects.

“Looking at this from an analysis point of view, hotels and motels are uses that put quite a bit of pressure on city services,” Planning Director David Taylor said, adding that a single hotel room amounts to the equivalent of one-quarter of a single-family residential unit. “Currently, we have some capacity issues with our water. We have 473 single-family residences remaining before we have to upgrade our system. When a hotel comes in, with this additional review criteria we would look at whether it is consistent with our ability to provide service.”

Councilor Andy Feury said the measure was not designed to target specific or existing development proposals, but that it has figured prominently into council’s discussions about how to place side rails on development pressure along Whitefish’s southern corridor, a conversation he said has been ongoing for two years.

“I’m glad we’re doing this,” Feury said prior to the vote. “There was some concern that we were rushing this through in order to deal with a specific potential application, but we have talked about this for two years. This is not in anticipation of something happening on that particular corner with regard to motels and hotels. It is something we discussed and I’m glad we got around to it.”

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

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