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. Kalispell – Montana Base Camp

A pair of Florida development companies are proposing an upscale, 330-space RV park on 50 acres at the south end of Kalispell (3260 Hwy 93 S near the intersection with Ashley Meadows Road). The RV park will include 18.2 acres of open common area. About 7.6 acres will be internal roads and streets. The final 24.5 acres will be RV space.

This is a multi-application process:

  • Growth Policy Amendment – The subject property is currently designated as “urban residential” on the entire 55 acres proposed to be developed. The amendment request is to change the designation to “urban mixed use” to accommodate the project.
  • Zone Change Map Amendment – The site is currently zoned RA-1/PUD. The applicants are requesting B-2 to accommodate the proposed RV park for the entire 55 acres.
  • Planned Unit Development (PUD) Overlay Zone – The PUD will function in concert with the B-2 zone to provide a comprehensive, integrated development plan.
  • Subdivision Approval – The applicants are submitting a preliminary plat for Phase 1 of the project to accommodate 62 RV spaces. The process insures the proper planning and oversight of public services such as water, sewer, storm water, streets, intersections, traffic control are provided for.

Citizens originally asked that the growth amendment not be approved. We felt that the 50-acre parcel would be better served in its initial urban-residential use. Changing it to mixed-use would only detract from the city’s goal of providing more affordable housing.

However, after listening to the discussion at the July 10th Planning Board meeting, we’re changing our position and will be in support of the project for a number of reasons:
– The land available for future housing use is not in short supply. If the city were to build out its planned future land reserves, the city could still expand to three times its size.
– The land sits on the lower portion of what was set aside as Siderius Commons. But the bypass has since dissected that parcel. Flanked on the west by Ashley Creek, on the south by the Ashley Meadows neighborhood, on the east by the business zone along Hwy 93 S, and on the north by the bypass; any housing would be contained within these boundaries – a potential 600-unit island with no easy connectivity to the land on the northside of the bypass. The RV park offers a lower density of 330 slips only during a six-month window (May through October), which is more amenable to the Ashley Meadows HOA to the south.
– An RV park is totally new to the city, which sees the tourist traffic pass through to the north toward Glacier Park. This is an opportunity to capture those tourist dollars in support of the downtown area, to become a strong economic benefit to our independent, locally owned businesses.

Background Information:

Key Dates:
August 20th 2018, 7:00pm – City Council meeting scheduled to consider proposal (w/ public hearing).
July 23rd 2018, 7:00pm – City Council is introduced to proposal at work session.
July 10th 2018 – Planning Board recommends approval.

Submit your comments for consideration by City Council for it’s August 20th meeting. Please contact the Mayor and City Council at citycouncil@kalispell.com.


2. 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.

As per Tom Jentz, the city’s planning director, there are two triggers he’s looking to launch work on The Downtown Plan:

  • When MDOT begins focusing on the couplet/three-lane roadway concept.
  • When the city begins reviewing consultants for the Trail. (The city kicked off the Trail & Complete Street phase of the Core + Rail TIGER project with a “Deep Dive” design event the week of June 4th, 2018 to gather community feedback on preferred trail design concepts and complete streets alignment options.)

Although pieces are already in motion, full work on the Downtown Plan is expected to begin as the Trail work begins to intersect with Hwy 93.

Background Information:


3. Whitefish – 57/Eagle Enterprise Development

Located beside Park Knoll Estates in the vacant area between two churches, this proposed subarea plan contains about 70 acres. Current zoning is Suburban Residential and Estate Residential, which would accommodate less than 100 units. The developer is applying for a growth policy amendment and requesting a denser urban residential zoning.

The proposal came before the Planning Board at their February 15th and March 15th as a requested development to build 376 dwelling units – 44 single-family lots, 280 multi-family units, and 33 attached townhomes. The Planning Board denied their recommendation to Council to approve the proposal. The applicant subsequently pulled their application after considerable community pushback.

The application was revised and resubmitted for the Planning Board’s consideration at its June 21st meeting. The proposed subarea plan still contains 70 acres – but only about 34 acres proposed for a land use change. The plan proposes to change the existing suburban growth policy designations to urban and multi-family designations. The rural designations on the western half of the property will remain rural. Densities for the properties could be in the neighborhood of 200 to 225 residential units with commercial designations along the highway frontage. The Planning Board tied on its decision and the application was forwarded to Council with no recommendation.

After continued considerable community pushback, the applicant offered another revised application just prior to the July 2nd City Council meeting. Council tabled the matter until July 16th, keeping the public hearing open as well.

However, after the July 2nd meeting, principals of the applicant met with members of the Park Knoll HOA board to see if a mutually agreed upon policy could be crafted so that Park Knoll might support or at least not object to the WF 57/Eagle Enterprises Subarea Plan.

The applicant believes that they have come up with a policy that would cap the density of the 20 acres of urban designated properties in the project to 250 units in order address some of the more significant concerns of the neighbors. The Park Knoll representatives wanted two weeks to meet with their members, as well as the Great Northern Heights neighbors to see if there is consensus for support of this compromise.

To facilitate the neighbors’ wishes, the WF 57/Eagle Enterprises Group has asked that the City Council continue any hearing or action on the Subarea Plan to the August 6th meeting.

Background Information:

Key Dates:
August 20th 2018, 7:10pm
– City Council meeting to discuss/consider proposal (public hearing closed) – tabled from August 6th hearing.
August 6th 2018, – City Council tables further discussion and consideration of proposal (closes public hearing).
July 16th 2018, – City Council tables further consideration (and public hearing) to August 6th meeting.
July 2nd 2018, – City Council tables further consideration (and public hearing) due to revised application.
June 21st 2018, – Planning Board ties on proposal and forwards to Council without a recommendation either way.
February 15th/March 15th 2018 – Planning Board considers and denies recommendation for Council approval. (Applicant pulls proposal and resubmits to Planning Board for June 21st meeting.


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.

A public kick-off meeting is scheduled for September 5th.

Background Information:

Key Dates:
September 5th 2018, 5:00pm to 7:00pm – “Drop-in” Public Open House (first of three), at National Parks Realty, 601 Spokane Avenue, Whitefish, MT


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:
September 13th 2018, 6:00pm to 8:00pm – Public meeting of the Strategic Housing Steering Committee at Whitefish City Hall.