In response to Kendall Cotton’s editorial about California–style urban sprawl and his assertion that Whitefish routinely denies denser housing projects, one needs to realize that there sometimes reasons for denying big projects. There are conditions for approval that must be considered before a project is approved. These include neighborhood community impact, open space, traffic, noise, sewer, water, storm water, police and fire capacities. When building a 270 multi-family project, there are bound to be negative impacts and burdens on the community.
Often the infrastructure is not capable of servicing the project. Roads need to be widened, traffic lights installed, water and sewage lines extended. The truth is, development does not pay the true cost of providing these services. If that were the case, all the construction happening in Whitefish would result in lower property taxes. This is definitely not the case and our water, sewage and trash collection bills have skyrocketed.
Some of the cost has been due to mandates but upgrades, improvements and increasing capacity are incredibly expensive. The true cost of improvements, extension of services, additional police and fire are being paid for by local taxpayers. Whitefish has built three new schools to address the increase in enrollments and the high school is already in need of expansion. Unfortunately, the Montana Legislature forbids denying a subdivision based on school impacts. Again, the local taxpayers are forced to pay those costs.
We need affordable housing but we can’t sacrifice neighborhoods and safety to achieve that goal. We can’t thrust the cost of development onto taxpayers who are at risk of being priced out of their homes. Landlords pass the additional costs onto renters making housing more expensive.
It is my hope that all those people working on finding solutions to the affordable housing crisis can solve the problem creatively and not pass the true costs onto us while the developers pull in a hefty profit.
Jan Metzmaker, Whitefish