Council approves Wisconsin corridor plan

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Whitefish City Council April 2 quietly passed the Wisconsin Avenue corridor plan.

Following months of work by the corridor plan committee and two meetings spent on the plan by the Whitefish Planning Board, there was no one from the public who showed up last week to comment prior to Council’s vote.

City Council unanimously approved the plan, which will become an amendment to the city’s growth policy and is designed to guide the development over the next two decades of the corridor from downtown Whitefish north to Big Mountain Road.

“This was a great process that created a great product,” Councilor Andy Feury said.

The plan examines future land uses, motorized and non-motorized transportation, infrastructure, economic performance and potential improvements for the corridor.

The plan calls for minimal changes to the existing land use patterns and future land use maps.

Under future land use, the plan breaks down the corridor into three subareas along Wisconsin Avenue.

Sub area A, which runs from Edgewood Place to just north of Denver Street, is described as a mix of land uses from local business, offices, multi-family and single-family areas. The former mobile home park on Edgewood was designated as high-density residential to promote workforce housing.

Sub area B, which runs from Denver Street to just north of The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, the plan says has the highest concentration of population in the study area and has a variety of residential uses including multi-family apartments, resort residential and single-family, along with two areas of major commercial activity. The plan notes that there are stable single-family residential areas in the sub area and future development of parcels should be designed to be compatible with these areas.

The northern most section, designated as sub area C, is characterized by more rural setting. The plan calls for future design improvements at the Big Mountain Road intersection and Reservoir Road intersection to handle increases in traffic.

Key development areas became the main item of discussion by the steering committee. The plan looks at four areas that were identified as mostly likely for major redevelopment due to the consolidation of ownership, underutilized land use or possible blight.

Three of the key development areas include West Edgewood, an area north of Skyles Place and west of Wisconsin Avenue, and the trailer park/gravel pit across from Alpine Village Market.

The owner of the West Edgewood site asked to the committee to change the future land use to high density residential to accommodate housing rather than commercial uses at that location.

Some minor changes were made to the map southwest of Skyles and Wisconsin to take into consideration the existing underlying zoning, which was at odds with the city growth policy.

The trailer park/gravel pit across from Alpine Village Market is zoned with business on Wisconsin and the remainder as resort residential.

Most of the community discussion was around the fourth key area involving property owned by Glacier Ranch Holdings. The owners had previously floated the concept of a potential lodge in 10-acre lake lots near the Big Mountain Road intersection, as well as a conference center and member village on portions of the 56 acres on the north side of East Lakeshore Drive.

Though the owners of the properties requested a change for the northern properties to resort residential to accommodate their plans, the steering committee opted to leave the designation for those properties as suburban residential. The future land use for the lake front properties in the plan remained as suburban residential.

The corridor plan sets out 14 action items to help implement the ideas and strategies formed in the steering committee.

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