City looks to work with owners on property line adjustment

by Heidi Desch
Whitefish Pilot | June 23, 2020 1:24 PM

Whitefish City Council last week said it wanted to work with the owners of a Dakota Avenue property who are seeking to change the boundary lines of their property to create four lots for future homes.

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. The planning department denied the Laabs’ application for a boundary line adjustment saying it was an attempt to evade subdivision regulations, but the couple says they are simply trying to take five current lots and turn it into four lots to construct two family homes on the property.

Council last week voted to extend a 30-day deadline allowing for further negotiation between the property owners and the city that might create an agreement it could approve.

Courtney Laabs told Council that she and her husband plan to build a home on the property for themselves and leave one lot for her sister to build a home of the four total they are requesting to create.

“Our intent is not to benefit financially,” she said. “We don’t want to see high density here. ”

The Laabs are requesting to eliminate two 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 lots to four total ranging in size from just over 2 acres to 3.6 acres in size.

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.

Planning Director Dave Taylor said the request was denied because the owner met with city staff to get input on the subdivision process and then after finding out certain subdivision improvement requirements decided to apply for a boundary line adjustment.

The Laabs, however, told Council they’d be willing to make some of the improvements required in their request for the boundary line adjustment is approved. They told Council they’d be willing to dedicate a 60-foot wide right-of-way along Dakota Avenue, provide for a sidewalk along Dakota Avenue and provide for a parkland dedication or cash-in-lieu requirement.

They also said they’d be willing to place a deed restriction on the final lots to prevent them from further being subdivided.

The city’s transportation plan also calls for Marina Crest Lane to be extended east to the edge of the property. Through the subdivision process, the owner would also have to meet the requirements of the Legacy Homes Program.

Council asked city staff and the Laabs to work together on the issue and return.

Several Councilors said they would prefer not to see high density housing being developed on those lots, but also needed assurances that certain improvements would be made to the properties.

“I think you guys are trying to do the right thing, but we have to balance that with our ordinances that are already in place,” Councilor Andy Feury told the owners.

Councilor Ben Davis said the city can’t allow a boundary line adjustment without getting certain items in return.

“We require something of every other person who wants to expand the use of their property,” he said.