Council shoots down parking lot for Kalispell Ave.

Editor | October 14, 2020 1:00 AM

After hearing several comments that adding a parking lot on Kalispell Avenue would erode the neighborhood, Whitefish City Council last week shot down a proposal to construct the lot on the alley side of the street.

The plan called for using four lots to construct a commercial parking lot to provide parking for an adjacent office building on the corner of Spokane Avenue and East Third Street. The front of the lots facing Kalispell Avenue would have contained two new townhomes.

Councilor Rebecca Norton said the project was just too much for the street.

“I don’t want to set a precedent that would take away one of the most charming streets in town,” she said. “We need to preserve our historic neighborhoods in town.”

The city received about 25 letters against the proposal, while it got less than half that number from those supporting the project.

During public comment, Mary Drew Powers said Kalispell Avenue is the beginning of Whitefish’s historic neighborhoods.

“This would benefit the business, but it won’t alleviate the parking issue on Kalispell,” she said. “I don’t mind if someone parks in front of my house, but this parking lot won’t change that.”

John Ellis told Council the parking lot shouldn’t be allowed in the residential zone to serve a commercial building in another zone.

“Once you allow someone to build a parking lot you’re not going to be able to stop anyone,” he said. “It will change what Kalispell Avenue looks like and it will change what Spokane Avenue looks like.”

The property currently contains a small house and large detached garage. The back part of the lots have already been paved and used for overflow parking for several decades.

Jake Carter, who applied for the conditional use permit for the parking lot, said the goal was to create a compromise by constructing the townhomes along with the parking lot.

“The reality is that we have four city lots there and we could construct six to eight units that would make a profit, but what we truly need is parking,” he said. “We wanted to do what we could do to be as little of a burden on the neighborhood.”

Councilor Steve Qunell said the proposal just wasn’t right.

“I applaud the owner for trying to find a solution, but I can’t agree with this,” he said.

A similar CUP request to develop a parking lot on the lots was denied by City Council in 2012. That proposal used the entire four lots for parking that went right up to Kalispell Avenue.