Potential new zoning district again postponed by Council
Whitefish Pilot | November 16, 2022 1:00 AM
In a recent meeting, the Whitefish City Council revisited the task of establishing the WB-T (Business Transitional District) zoning district for the area just south of Montana 40 as an implementation of the Highway 93 South Corridor Plan. The zoning affects properties annexing into the city.
The public hearing last week was the ninth time council has discussed the potential zoning district. According to Whitefish City Planner Dave Taylor, the WB-T zoning had been the topic of discussion for four public hearings and four City Council work sessions before coming to the council again last Monday night. Despite another lengthy discourse, council voted to postpone a decision until its next meeting on Nov. 21.
With two council members missing, the ordinance would require a supermajority vote, which, in this case, would require the four present members to vote unanimously. After more discussion and comments from three citizens, the only decision made was to make the decision at a later date.
Currently, the area is zoned county B-4 which is equivalent to Whitefish’s WB-2 zone, or secondary business district and the city does not want to have WB-2 south of Montana 40 along the Highway 93 South corridor.
”The purpose (of the WB-T zoning district) is to ensure the properties at the entrance to Whitefish that annex into the city in the future are developed in a manner consistent with the community’s vision for that area and to better buffer adjacent residential properties from negative impacts,” said Taylor.
The topic of several discussions has been the types of uses that should be allowed. Taylor said throughout the work on this ordinance, there have been modifications made to remove several uses that are permitted by the county.
Taylor said there are 34 uses permitted by right under the current county zoning and recited a long list of the types of uses that have been removed, including amusement parks and automobile, boat and recreational vehicle parts, sales, rentals, repair and service, as well as truck stops, short-term rental housing and mini-storage.
About a dozen permitted uses remain. Taylor said the goal is to allow enough uses to entice people into the city and eliminate the uses that have a high traffic count.
The city zoning would allow the city to have oversight when it comes to development in that area, including things like the city’s architectural review standards, dark skies ordinance, sign code, building permits and the city’s environmental regulations.
The county has minimal setbacks but the current version of the WB-T zone has a 30-foot front setback and a 50-foot landscaped buffer when abutting Highway 93 and Highway 40. Shared driveway access or frontage roads are also required where possible.
The current draft of the zoning says single-family dwellings through 18-unit multi-family dwellings are a use-by-right and buildings with more than 18 units require a conditional use permit. Additionally, changes were made to make the maximum building footprint 15,000 square feet and any building larger than 7,500 square feet would require a conditional use permit.
The public hearing will be closed when council continues discussing the WB-T zoning district at its next meeting on Nov. 21.