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The Springs expansion heads to Council with stamp of approval

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | May 29, 2024 12:00 AM

The Whitefish Community Development Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of a  proposed expansion at The Springs senior living community.

Whitefish Facility LLC. is requesting a planned unit development to develop an additional 80 independent living units on the eastern portion of the property and a separate, 44-unit multi-family building to be located on the southwest corner of the intersection of River Lakes Parkway and Hospital Way.

According to the staff report, the project includes a 10-foot wide shared-use path installed along River Lakes Parkway, circling the project and connecting with the existing shared-use path to the north and east. In addition, street trees and streetlights will be installed.

The applicant is requesting zoning deviations including a 45-foot height for the independent living building. In the WR-4 zone, 35 feet is standard. They are also wanting to build a reduced number of bicycle parking spaces. They propose eight new spaces, bringing the total to 12, whereas the standard is 31.

In exchange for the zoning deviations, the public benefit provided by the applicant is the 10-foot wide shared use path.

“The new shared use path will be the primary pedestrian and bicycle circulation for the development and provide connections to the rest of the neighborhood and to the hospital,” Whitefish Senior Planner Wendy Compton-Ring said. 

City standards require 113 parking spaces, and the applicant is providing 254.

“We would encourage them to reduce their overall parking in order to reduce impervious surfaces and the public works department will work with these folks in that regard,” Compton-Ring said.

The architect for the project, Ray Yancey from LRS Architects, and The Springs’ director of design, Chris Shelby, were on hand to answer questions. Shelby said he was happy with the development in the area including the music school, the ball fields and the hospital.

“The Springs of Whitefish joined our family in 2007 … and we have been eyeing this expansion since then,” Shelby said. “We feel the area provides a very vibrant neighborhood.”

Board member Toby Scott expressed concern over the limited number of bicycle parking spaces.

“We have 19 communities currently and we don't see a lot of bike parking from our residents. We do see some visitors and staff riding their bikes to work at times and eight is the number we’re at,” Shelby said. “Thirty, which I believe is the required amount, is a substantial amount that will not get used.”

He added that the extensive amount of car parking is needed for three shifts of employees, for residents’ vehicles and for snow storage. Scott asked about utilizing impervious surfaces for the parking lot.

Doug Peppmeier of TD&H Engineering said impervious options for the parking area do not function well and are not effective due to the climate and the soil conditions in this area.

Shelby said the 44-unit multi-family building will be a complement to the continuum of care next door. The units will be offered at market rate with an age restriction of 55 and over.

Scott proposed an amendment to increase the bike parking by 16 spaces, thereby requiring 31 total spaces. His amendment passed unanimously, as did the motion to recommend the planned unit development.

“I don’t know how many people 55 you know around here, but this is a pretty darn active community and I guarantee you, more of those people are going to be riding their bikes than not,” board Chair Steve Qunell said.

Qunell said expanding the assisted living capabilities is a public benefit but he is adamant about building affordable housing.

“I sure would like to see some guarantee of some percentage of deed restricted, affordable units in that building (the active living building),” Qunell said. 

This item is scheduled to be heard by the Whitefish City Council on June 3.