On split vote, Council approves request for property line change

by HEIDI DESCH
Editor | July 14, 2020 3:27 PM

Whitefish City Council on a split vote last week approved an agreement with owners of a Dakota Avenue property that would allow them to change the boundary lines of their property to construct future homes.

Council voted 3-2 to approve a request from the owners to change the lines of the property creating four lots. Councilors Rebecca Norton and Ben Davis voted in opposition.

Kelly and Courtney Laabs requested a hearing before City Council after the Whitefish Planning Department denied their request to change the boundary lines for the property to turn five lots into four lots off Labrie Drive and Dakota Avenue.

Council discussed the matter last month delaying a vote to allow for further negotiation of the issue.

Norton said the city tries to work with property owners who have special situations on their property, but not requiring all of the items that would be necessary through the subdivision process is not acceptable.

“Council started to broker a deal on this and I don’t want to set a precedent for people to pick and choose what they can do. I’m afraid of what we’re giving up and I’m afraid that we’re not following our long term plans.”

Through the subdivision process, the owner would have had to meet the requirements of the Legacy Homes Program by providing affordable units or cash-in-lieu in portion to the number of units in the subdivision. The city’s transportation plan also calls for Marina Crest Lane to be extended east to the edge of the property, which likely would have also been required.

Councilor Frank Sweeney said Council, the planning department and the property owner worked to find a comprise and he was willing to except getting nearly all of the requirements that typically come with a subdivision.

“They’re providing everything absent of what we would get for contribution to the affordable housing program,” he said.

Council approved the agreement that requires the Laabs to dedicate to the city 40 feet of Dakota Avenue, construct a 5-foot wide sidewalk on Dakota Avenue, provide cash-in-lieu of park land dedication in the amount of about $57,000 and place deed restrictions on the property that the four lots could only be developed with single family homes.

The Laabs plan to eliminate to lot lines between existing vacant lots in the Dakota Meadows subdivision off of Labrie Drive, and then move those lot lines onto the 9.444-acre adjacent vacant lot at 777 Dakota Avenue. The number of lots would go from five to four total ranging in size from just over 2 acres to 3.6 acres in size.

The planning department previously denied the request by the Laabs saying it was an attempt to evade the subdivision regulations. Council by approving the agreement overturned the decision.

Under a boundary line adjustment, a property owner may request an exemption from subdivision regulations if common boundary lines of a lot within a subdivision are simply adjusted or moved and certain criteria are met.