Land-Use Planning and Policy Work

Citizens has been at the vanguard of wise land use and policy change since 1992. We advocate for strong downtowns, reduced highway sprawl, infrastructure to support the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, protected agricultural lands, affordable housing, and planning for future growth.

Have an issue you’d like to bring to our attention? Please email us at citizens@flatheadcitizens.org, or call 406-756-8993.

Here are planning issues we’re currently monitoring and commenting on:


1. County – Zoning Text Amendments (2018.08)

A request by the Flathead County Planning Board for multiple amendments to the Flathead County Zoning Regulations. The character of many of the purposed amendments can generally be described as ensuring consistency in language throughout the regulations and to rearrange the placement of use districts in a more logical order. More significant amendments include, but are not necessarily limited to: eliminating zoning use districts from the regulations, renaming other zoning use districts, complete revision of the sign regulations, and adding and deleting definitions.

There are a few areas that spark our concern:

  • The impacts of consolidating AG-80, -40, -20 into a single AG zone.
  • Modifications to the definitions of the B-2A, BSD, RR-1, and the SWO zoning districts – decoupling them from the “City of Whitefish” references for the flexibility to apply them to other areas of the County.
  • Complete revision of the sign regulations removing references to sign content in compliance with the recent Supreme Court decision. The proposed regulations do not propose to change setbacks, size, or the kinds of signs allowed in each district. (The sign regulations will also be organized into their own chapter.)

(Note that the AG consolidation has been separated from these amendments and will be revisited sometime in 2019.)

Damage could be done to sound planning in possible changes to the zoning code, particularly focusing on zoning (regulatory) rather than on growth policy (advisory).

Background Information:

Key Dates:
December 13, 2018, 10:00am – Public hearing to be held in front of County commissioners – at County commissioners’ chambers.
October 10, 2018, 6:00pm – County Planning Board meets and recommends for the commissioners’ approval. This agenda item was a continuation of the August 8, 2018 and September 12, 2018 planning board meetings.

Public comment is still being accepted and will be part of the documentation forwarded to the commissioners for their review, and may be e-mailed to the Planning Board at planning.zoning@flathead.mt.gov.


2. County, Somers – Spring Creek Neighborhood Association

A number of neighbors have contacted us with issues they have with a proposed Camp Champion, an eco-friendly camp for at-risk youth on un-zoned property along the northern boundary of the Lakeside Neighborhood Plan jurisdiction. Neighbors are concerned with access to properties, traffic impacts, noise, decreased property values, etc. These issues have been exacerbated by a sense of lack of communication and transparency as to the overall impact of the camp on the surrounding properties.

The project is still in the early development stages. But it has prompted the neighbors to organize into the Spring Creek Neighborhood Association (SCNA), who will begin efforts to zone area properties – a recognized goal within the Lakeside Neighborhood Plan. We will continue to monitor the issue and help in SCNA’s efforts as they progress.

Background Information on Camp Champion:


3. Kalispell – The Downtown Plan

(As an amendment to the city’s growth policy.)

The Downtown Plan addresses a number of key topics that affect the future growth and development of downtown Kalispell. The primary goals of The Downtown Plan are:

  1. Restore the US 93 Highway corridor in downtown Kalispell to “Main Street.”
  2. Provide convenient parking for the business community and visitors.
  3. Provide for business development and redevelopment options within the downtown area.
  4. Create an enhanced transportation network.
  5. Create a unique and identifiable image for downtown Kalispell.
  6. Become the epicenter for the arts, culture, and historic preservation within the Flathead Valley.

Citizens will develop and share strategies to support this plan and highway design, as well as create fact sheets speaking to vision points of The Downtown Plan.

Background Information:

Key Dates:
November 19, 2018 – City Council meets to hold public hearing on Urban Renewal Plan – at Kalispell City Hall.


4. Whitefish – Highway 93 South Corridor Plan

A Steering Committee has been established to serve as the primary sounding board to work through the planning process with city staff and members of the community to establish a development policy for the Highway 93 South Corridor. The final draft of the plan is scheduled to be completed by January 2019 for Planning Board review in February 2019.

The meetings at this stage have been orientation meetings. Deeper discussions have focused on how the process will unfold and the committee’s role, what the land use plans currently look like along the corridor, current issues and opportunities that may present themselves, etc. Plans are for three public meetings over the course of the planning period. The first was held in September. The next two are tentatively scheduled for November and early winter/early spring 2019.

Background Information:

Key Dates:
December 10, 2018, 1:00pm to 4:00pm – Steering Committee meets – at Whitefish City Hall.


5. Whitefish – Strategic Housing Plan:

The City approved the Whitefish Strategic Housing Plan in 2017 to address workforce housing needs through a balanced, achievable combination of strategies that:

  • Utilize city-owned land and public financing to construct rental housing in the downtown area.
  • Offer incentives to develop workforce housing in the downtown area, commercial zones where it is not currently allowed, and existing residential areas where appropriate.
  • Require workforce housing to be produced as part of new residential developments as the community grows.
  • Provide voluntary ways by which the broader community can contribute to housing.
  • Engage employers, non-profits, and the private sector as partners in workforce housing solutions.

A steering committee has been convened and meets generally the second Thursday of each month from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

Background Information:

Key Dates:
December 13, 2018, 6:00pm to 8:00pm – Steering Committee meets – at Whitefish City Hall.