City Council to consider request to construct parking lot on Kalispell Avenue

by HEIDI DESCH
Editor | September 30, 2020 1:00 AM

Whitefish City Council on Oct. 5 is set to look at a request to construct a commercial parking lot on the alley side of Kalispell Avenue.

The lot currently contains a small house and large detached garage on it. Jake Carter is requesting a conditional use permit to construct the parking lot that would serve to provide parking for an adjacent office building on Spokane Avenue.

The Whitefish Planning Board earlier this month voted to recommend denial of the request.

Board member Whitney Beckham said the parking lot is a commercial use trying to be constructed in a residential neighborhood because of a lack of parking.

“What we’ve heard from the neighborhood is definitely that is something they don’t support,” she said. “This neighborhood shouldn’t bear the problem because there are commercial parking problems in downtown.”

The back part of the lots have already been paved and used for overflow parking by tenants and customers from the office building on Spokane Avenue.

The plan calls for the requested parking lot to be visually blocked from Kalispell Avenue by new townhomes, which the developer said is a way to mitigate concerns from neighbors.

The city received more than 20 letters regarding the request. Concerns from neighboring property owners were that the parking lot would mean commercial creep into a historical neighborhood and a desire to keep the character of the residential neighborhood in tact.

While supporters said that the design with townhomes facing Kalispell maintains residential character and there’s a need for a commercial parking lot in the area to keep cars off the residential street.

During public comment before the planning board, Paul McCann said allowing a commercial parking lot means a negative impact to the future of the residential neighborhood.

“The alley way between Spokane and Kalispell is the separation between commercial and residential,” he said. “Once you allow that commercial parking into our neighborhood, it’s only going to spill down Kalispell.”

Christine Bernat said she doesn’t want the commercial area coming into the residential neighborhood.

“We bought our house to be in a residential area and be close to town,” she said. “I’m going to overlook a parking lot to my house. I have some distrust that this commercial parking is going to encroach into our residential neighborhood.”

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.

Council meeets at 7 p.m. via Webex. For access to the meeting, call the city at 863-2400.