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Planning board provides favorable recommendation for car dealership

by HEIDI DESCH
Whitefish Pilot | June 30, 2021 1:00 AM

The Whitefish Planning Board recently voted to recommend a proposal that would allow for a new car dealership to operate at the former Depratu dealership site on U.S. Highway 93.

The Wolf Auto Group is seeking a conditional use permit to use the commercial building and property for auto sales and service business. The property is zoned secondary business.

The Wolf Auto Group, with its headquarters in Buffalo, Wyoming, is requesting to operate its business out of the existing building on Highway 93 that previously served as the Depratu car dealership. The property had been used for a car dealership for about 30 years before sitting empty in recent years.

After hearing from some neighbors of the property, the planning board decided to add a condition to the permit that would require fencing and landscaping along the eastern edge of the property if that portion is used for the car dealership.

City Planning Director Dave Taylor said the condition could be added, but suggested that it include the requirement only if that section is used for commercial purposes since the owner has expressed interest in subdividing the lot with the eastern portion being converted to a residential use.

During public comment, Burt Boessneck told the planning board that he lives in the nearby neighborhood and would like to see fencing placed along the eastern border to create a buffer between the car dealership and the homes.

“This is a residential neighborhood abutting a commercial use and it would be nice to have a fence and some trees along there,” he said.

A conditional use permit is required for automotive sales and service in the WB-2 secondary zoning district.

The Wolf Auto Group includes car dealerships in Buffalo, Wyoming, and Jackson, Wyoming.

Phil Wolf told the Daily Inter Lake that expanding the business to Whitefish makes sense and that the auto group sells all makes and models of vehicles. Though the goral would to be bring in a brand to to Whitefish such as Jaguar or Land Rover, he noted.

The request from Wolf Auto is set to go before Council on July 6.

The planning board also voted to recommend two subdivision requests.

Karen Jean Bunker is requesting a preliminary plat approval for a four-lot subdivision called Fulkerson Homestead on property that is currently undeveloped and zoned two-family residential. The property, which is .6 acres in size, is located at the southwest corner of Sawtooth Drive and O’Brien Avenue.

The density of the subdivision will be 6.67 dwelling units per acre. Lots will have frontage and driveways along either O’Brien Avenue or Sawtooth Drive.

Concerns from neighbors about the impact of the project were submitted to the city including the impact on the character of the neighborhood, lack of open space and drainage.

Planning staff noted that the lots will be similar sized to those in the surrounding subdivision.

One neighbor, Kathleen Steele, asked that parking be limited in the area of the new subdivision because of the number of pedestrians including small children that use the street.

The request is set to go before City Council on July 9.

Separately, Dan Nelson is requesting preliminary plat approval for a four-lot subdivision called 736 Wisconsin Avenue subdivision and is located at the same address as the name. The property is currently undeveloped and zoned two-family residential.

Each lot would be sized to accommodate either a detached single-family home or a townhouse/duplex and would be accessed off East Marina Crest Drive.

During public comment, Mike Barham told the planning board that he’s concerned about congestion that will come with the four-lot subdivision saying that the lot size is smaller than the lots in the surrounding area. He suggested that two lots would be preferable.

“How much density is enough?” he said. “I’m not here to stop development, but to ask you to keep it reasonable.”

The request is set to go before Council for a vote on July 19.

The planning board also gave a positive recommendation for a request for a conditional use permit from Heather Burnham to convert an existing accessory structure into a guest house at 810 Colorado Ave. The property includes a single-family residence and is zoned low density multi-family residential.

The CUP request is set to go before Council on July 19.