Board recommends mixed-use building

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The former building of Lakestream Fly Shop on Central Avenue. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

The Whitefish Planning Board voted last week to recommend approval of a mixed-use building on Central Avenue.

Bill Goldberg, who owns the property, is proposing to remove the building that formerly housed the Lakestream Fly Shop and construct a new building that would include retail and commercial spaces on the first floor, and residential on the second and third floors.

In a 5-2 vote, the board voted to recommend the project to City Council, which will hold a public hearing on the project at its Dec. 3 meeting.

Boardmember Judy Hessellund voted against the proposal saying the three-story building doesn’t fit with the flavor of downtown.

“We need to protect the character of the downtown,” she said.

Boardmember John Ellis voted in favor saying mixed-use buildings are a good thing, but he also cautioned the developer in regards to the design.

“All these buildings are starting to look the same,” he said. “Get creative. If we keep having the same buildings, things are going to get boring.”

Aaron Wallace, with Montana Creative, said in representing the developer that the plan is to construct the building to include landscaping and balconies on the north and south sides of the building. He said brick is being considered as the building material to give it a look similar to others in that area of Central Avenue.

“We want to create active edges because we know that the other buildings [on each side] won’t be developed like this,” he said.

“We think this is going to be a nice extension to the downtown,” he added.

A conditional use permit is required to construct the 8,205-square-foot building because it exceeds 7,500 square feet, has more than four residential units and is in the WB-3 zone and Old Town Central District.

During public comment, Rhonda Fitzgerald said the new building will actually have a smaller square footage of retail space than the current building on site. She also expressed concern that the building is actually a vehicle for creating residential units to be used for vacation rentals.

“Residential means for living not for overnight rentals,” she said. “The idea is for creating places for people to live is that it activates the downtown year around.”

Goldberg had originally sought to include two residential units accessed through the alley on the first floor. However, residential units are not allowed on the first floor in the WB-3 Old Town Central District.

Planning Director Dave Taylor said planning staff is recommending that the two residential units be changed to commercial or retail units. He said the mixed-use building is consistent with the vision for downtown.

“The downtown master plan calls for an expansion of retail to the south on Central,” he said. “The plan calls for that because we want enough space for commercial and retail to operate.”

Goldberg told the planning board he is fine with changing the ground floor units to all retail or commercial.

“Our interpretation of the code was that it would allow residential in the alley,” he said. “We’re not here to pick a fight about that. We want to continue development of that block.”

The plan calls for nine units, a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units on the second floor and three total residential units on the third floor in two- and three-bedroom size.

The city’s downtown master plan calls for multifamily housing in that area and the growth policy calls for commercial and mixed-used development on the south end of Central.

The plan for the new building calls for parking in the basement for 20 vehicles. The building would have rooftop access and a small patio at the center with an area for a hot tub.

City Council earlier this year turned down a request by Fresh Life Church to construct a mixed-use building for the church and retail spaces at the same site.

The Planning Board on Thursday also:

• Voted to recommend a request by Steve Sutherland and Christine Coughlin for a conditional use permit to construct a guest house in a residential zone on Haugen Heights. Planning staff is recommending approval of the request.

The item will go before City Council on Dec. 3.

• Voted to recommend a request by Joy Keuylian to develop a three-lot subdivision off Armory Road on 7.5 acres. Each lot will be 2.5 acres in size with driveways along Amory Road. The site has one single-family residence currently under construction, which will remain on one of the proposed lots, the other two lots are vacant. Planning staff is recommending approval of the request.

The item will go before City Council on Dec. 3.

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