Cabin rebuilds on lake approved, further work halted

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Work already completed on a set of structures being rebuilt at the high-water mark at Monk’s Bay of Whitefish Lake was legally permitted, according to the city of Whitefish Planning Department, but further work at the site has been halted.

Neighbors on Whitefish Lake have noticed the rebuilds and showed concern over whether the project is in accordance with city lakeshore regulations.

In a letter to the Pilot, Blaine Wright recently said that a flaw in the lakeshore rules is being exploited.

“It is distressing that this developer has chosen to game our lakeshore rules (that allow repair) to build new buildings in the forbidden zone,” Wright wrote.

The 11-acre lakeshore tract south of East Lakeshore Drive where work has been taking place, along with another 27 acres on both sides of Big Mountain Road, are owned by Joe Gregory.

Gregory applied to Flathead County for a lakeshore construction permit to repair three structures — a boat house, and outdoor gazebo and a cabin, known as the “Old White Cabin” or the “Monk’s Bay Cabin” — on the Lake at Monk’s Bay, which turned out to be too far gone to salvage, city Planning Director David Taylor told the Pilot.

The county granted the lakeshore permit last February and the buildings were demolished and replaced with new foundations and two two-story cabins.

“It turned out that the buildings were basically too rotten, parts of them in the lake, so they ended up replacing the buildings,” Taylor said.

After discovering the cabin was completely rebuilt, increased to two-stories and set on some boulders, the county issued a stop work order in the fall, but rescinded the order as recently revised regulations allow a non-conforming building in the lakeshore protection zone to be completely rebuilt as long as it’s on the same footprint, according to Taylor.

In November of last year, during the time of the rebuilding, the properties were annexed into the city, who issued its own stop work order after determining a floodplain permit was not applied for.

Currently a stop work order has been imposed on the project, with the city asking for a floodplain permit from Gregory before continuing any development on the site.

To get a floodplain permit, the building needs to be two feet above the base flood elevation, which it currently fails to do. Taylor said it’s unlikely that the city can issue the permit without some sort of variance, and the city has no authority to extend the lakeshore construction permit after it expired because it was issued by the county.

Taylor said city staff has tried working out solutions with Gregory, but nothing yet has been resolved.

“We basically just asked the property owner, ‘To solve this thing maybe you could consider picking up the building and moving it outside of the lakeshore protection zone.’ I don’t think they liked that option,” Taylor said.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to do, we’re just in the process of figuring it out,” he added.

The Pilot reached out to architect Bruce Lutz of WGM Group, which has represented Gregory on the project, for comment, but as of presstime had not heard back.

Early plans for properties owned by Gregory include a lakeshore lodge with residential development and other buildings on the properties to the north on Big Mountain Road.

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