Whitefish updates architectural design standards

by HEIDI DESCH
Editor | November 11, 2020 1:00 AM

Whitefish has updated its architectural design standards that apply to commercial and industrial buildings, and residential projects with two or more units.

The city has had architectural review design standards since 2003.

“The standards have evolved considerably over the years,” Senior Planner Wendy Compton-Ring said. “Originally, the standards were entirely voluntary, however, because of a lack of compliance with standards, they were eventually made mandatory.”

City Council recently unanimously approved the changes to the standards.

Mayor John Muhlfeld said the updates are well-done.

“I hope this will guide developers when they come to the city with projects and help the Architectural Review Committee with their decisions,” he said.

The Architectural Review Committee reviews the projects where the standards apply. It also reviews additions, facade changes and repainting projects.

In 2018, City Council directed the committee to amend the standards.

One of the more notable changes is to extend the Old Town South District from East Sixth Street to the Whitefish River along Spokane Avenue, instead of the area being part of the highway design district.

The committee chose to make the change to acknowledge the relatively smaller lots and slower vehicle speeds and transitional nature to downtown compared to the highway zoning further south.

Some updates are intended to further implement the downtown master plan, including requiring materials to also match the downtown rhythm of 25 to 50 feet building height, making sure new buildings match the existing blocks, and requiring that awning overhangs align with the edge of the curb.

Submissions for approval would need to show the new building in context of the block where they are proposed to be constructed.

Changes to the standards also encourage outdoor spaces for residents and customers in all architectural districts.

For the highway district changes were made based upon the work of the committee drafting a Highway 93 South corridor plan. Changes include orienting buildings toward public streets and locating parking lots to the side and rear of lots. In addition, buildings must be arranged to give prominence to a pedestrian corridor and an outdoor gathering space with seating.

The standards also now require a mock-up for buildings with a footprint of 10,000 square feet or larger in the highway district and 7,500 square feet or larger in the Old Town district or if adequate detailing information isn’t provided.

For residential projects, the committee developed duplex, townhouse and triplex standards. Previously many of the standards were geared toward larger multi-family buildings and projects, and the committee recognized a need for specific standards for smaller projects.

The standards include a minimum requirement of standards with six features including two roof projections, two roof off-sets, minimum of 18-inch overhangs, front porch, appear to be a single-family residence and have eight corners as viewed from above.

Enhanced features for the residential project are suggested elements the applicant might consider. Not all are required, but one or two are considered to help improve the design, including, a chimney, double fascia, roof projections, different siding materials for gables, main walls and wainscot, trim board, different side windows aligned with each other, stone wainscot with cap and column with base.