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Planning board looks at two hotel plans

by HEIDI DESCH
Whitefish Pilot | September 15, 2021 1:00 AM

Two plans for new hotels in Whitefish are on the Whitefish Planning Board agenda for this week.

The board meets on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.

Whitefish 57 Commercial LLC is requesting a conditional use permit for an 85-room hotel at 21 Hedman Lane just off Highway 93 in a recently created commercial subdivision. The lot is currently empty.

The hotel would front Hedman Lane with parking to the sides and rear of the project on the half-acre property. The project is providing 93 parking spaces, which meets the city standards.

A conditional use permit is required for hotels and motels in the WB-2 zone where the property is located and also for buildings with a footprint of greater than 10,000 square feet.

The planning department is recommending approval with eight conditions.

Will MacDonald on behalf of 38 Central Partners LLC is requesting a planned unit development to construct a new three-story 40-room boutique hotel with a bar and lounge at 38 Central Ave.

The plan calls for constructing a new hotel on five vacant lots along Central Avenue and First Street at a size of 16,250 square feet.

The first floor would contain the restaurant and bar, as well as areas for retail and services and the hotel lobby. The second and third floors would contain the hotel suites, and a rooftop area open to the public is planned as part of the restaurant and the hotel.

The plan calls for 42 underground parking spaces.

The developer is applying for a PUD since they are requesting a deviation to the building height design standards for the property’s zoning of WB-3. The building would be 35 feet tall with only the stair and elevator towers, which extend to 45 feet.

City standards say that no building can be above 35 feet in height or two stories, whichever is less. The building height design standards make the development of a large hotel difficult and are more geared toward the development of individual 25-foot wide lots in the downtown rather than the development of a half a city block, according to the planning staff report. The plan calls for the entire third floor flush with the first two floors and the building would be no taller than nearby buildings at 35 feet at the street, but would have three vertical stories without 20 feet setback with a maximum of 45 feet.

On initial review, the planning report notes, there is multiple new buildings downtown that all have the same stepped-back design, so the three-story building could have a more historic handsome appeal. The hotel would be of similar height to Casey’s and the 100 Central building.

In exchange for the height deviation for the zoning, the developer is proposing four community benefits.

The plan would be part of the implementation of the downtown master plan through the development of a boutique hotel. The 42 on-site underground parking spaces in the WB-3 zoning where no parking is required.

The developers plan to donate $500,000 to the Whitefish Housing Authority for workforce housing planned for the city’s snow lot expected to create up to 26 housing units. They also plan to establish an optional 1% lodging and food fee at the hotel that will go toward workforce housing projects for five years.

The hotel is expected to generate 334 daily trips when completed in 2023.

Planning staff is recommending approval of the plan subject to 20 conditions.

Also on the agenda, is a request by Hold Your Horses, LLC for a conditional use permit to amend a previously approved CUP for a boarding house at 625 Park Ave. The owner is asking to reduce the required parking from 18 to 10 spaces.

The parking requirement previously imposed for the CUP seems to be excessive as over the last four years the parking lot has remained mostly empty, according to the planning staff report, and the vast majority of the residents use bikes, walk or the bus for transportation.

In addition, a surveying error did not relocate a lot line that would have placed all required parking onto the boarding house lot. Now a portion of the property is on an adjacent lot that is being developed with a multi-family project.

The board will also consider a request from Courtney Ulvin and Dillon Matteson for a conditional use permit to construct an accessory apartment above a new two-garage on Patton Lane. The property includes a single-family home.