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Public gets involved in Whitefish's Vision 2045 plan

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | March 6, 2024 12:00 AM

Whitefish hosted the first of several visioning sessions to gather public input for the growth policy update.

A total of 110 citizens showed up for the session which was hosted for two nights, Feb. 21-22 at City Hall.

“The first session was well attended … I believe we got some very valuable feedback regarding how our community sees Whitefish, what they value, areas in town they believe most important to preserve and areas where they believe change may occur,” Whitefish Long Range Planner Alan Tiefenbach said. “I am presently compiling and mapping all this data.”

During his introduction, Tiefenbach told the crowd that visioning is a process whereby a community forms a mental picture of the future it wants. Tiefenbach then led the group through an interactive polling exercise on their phones, the results of which were seen in real time on the chamber’s big screen.

In one instance, participants were asked to type three words that described what they loved about Whitefish. The answers soon formed a colorful word cloud on the screen with the most popular answer appearing largest. 

The visioning session included breakout groups that addressed several questions about geographic areas and how they may change over time. Participants then mapped their ideas and shared them with the larger group.

Planning Director Dave Taylor led one of the small group discussions. At one point, he asked them to write a sentence or two to summarize Whitefish, as if they were describing the town, as it is now, to someone who has never seen it. Later he asked them what Whitefish should look like in 20 years.

Some of the offerings were, “The same town with a few more people loving it,” “A strong sense of community where children don’t have to leave to pursue good jobs,” “Economic opportunity and diversity,” “Density with green areas instead of sprawl.”

One member suggested building up rather than out, while another member of the group had a hard time reconciling the changes and visualizing the future.

“Do your best. If you don’t have a target to shoot for, you’re not going to hit anything,” Taylor said. “If we can look at the target of what we want to be, at least we can help try to steer things toward that.”

The Community Development Board will hold a work session on March 21 before its regular meeting to discuss results from the visioning session.

Tiefenback said the next visioning sessions are in the process of being planned and will run from mid-April to June. The subsequent sessions will address more specific concerns.

“We have not determined the exact questions yet, but they will be related to the character and strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of distinctive areas in town,” Tiefenbach added.

For those who missed the first meeting, many of the exercises used at the first session will be available on the Vision Whitefish 2045 website until March 15. 

For more information about Vision Whitefish 2045 visit: www.engagewhitefish.com.