The Whitefish City Council voted to approve a request from a developer for a preliminary plat for a 7-acre lot south of the Grouse Mountain soccer fields.
Little Bear Developments No. 2 has proposed building a mixed residential subdivision broken down into 20 lots with 10 single-family or duplex lots, eight townhouse sublots in one building, and two lots for condominium development, with a maximum of four units in one and 25 units in the other.
The area for the subdivision is currently zoned medium density resort residential.
The council’s vote came with an additional requirement, which is that a south entrance to the development be moved at least 35 feet north. The requirement was brought about as an amendment on a motion to approve the request.
Karen Hill, the president of the Grouse Mountain Homeowners Association, talked at length during the hearing about the concerns of the association in regards to the entrance. Hill said she was also there as a representative of Grouse Mountain Lodge owners Pursuit Collections
“There is one thing that causes us a great deal of concern, and it’s minor, and that is the preliminary plat shows the debouchment at the south end of the road directly across from Green Place, which is one of our HOA internal roads. Directly to the north of that you’ll see a structure. That is the entrance structure to Grouse Mountain,” Hill said. “It’s about 27 feet long, it has power and water, obviously an elaborate piece of work on the road allowance to our community.”
Hill said the structure was originally intended to be the location of an entrance gate, and the power and facility for the gate remain there.
Steve Qunell and Frank Sweeney voted for the amendment requiring the entrance be moved, while Andy Feury and Giuseppe Caltabiono voted against it. Mayor John Muhlfield broke the tie by voting in favor.
Subsequently, the council voted three to one to approve the request for the preliminary plat, with Qunell representing the only vote in opposition. Qunell, citing the lack of infrastructure and the potential hazards increased traffic could create for pedestrians, said he was torn about how to vote.
“This is the problem with these types of developments for me. Our infrastructure is not capable of accepting this kind of development at this place at this time,” Qunell said.
Neighbors have expressed concerns about additional traffic in the area, the density of the development and the potential missed opportunity to expand a city park.
After a tie vote at a November meeting about the development, the planning and development board was unable to offer a recommendation. City staff recommended approval of the preliminary plat with the requirement that the developer meet some additional conditions.
The developer has requested one variance, according to city staff. The city requires sidewalks on both sides of the street, and the developer is asking for a sidewalk on one side. City staff have also recommended approving the variance request.
Among the requests made by city staff is the creation of a construction traffic detour plan accepted by the Grouse Mountain Homeowners Association, that sight lines at new intersections be improved, that streets, sidewalks, drainage and defensible space be maintained, and that a tree preservation plan be submitted.
A project manager for Little Bear Developments appeared by video at the council meeting, where he said although the developer would not be providing deed-restricted affordable housing, the company wanted to offer $100,000 to the Whitefish Housing Authority, with $50,000 paid upon completion of the sale of the first 10 lots, and the remaining $50,000 to be paid upon the completion and sale of the townhomes.
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