Decision time for Whitefish microbrewery

Whitefish City Council

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The Whitefish City Council tonight is tasked with deciding whether or not to approve Ryan Zinke’s proposed microbrewery and bed-and-breakfast inn on U.S. 93 West.

It’s a decision that essentially will force the council to take sides, either favoring the Planning Board’s recommendation to move forward with the project or abiding by the planning staff’s recommendation to table the project until a corridor study is done for the highway.

A public hearing on Zinke’s request for a nonresidential planned unit development overlay is on tonight’s agenda.

Zinke’s project involves three parcels along U.S. 93 at 340, 409 and 415 W. Second St. Two parcels for the bed and breakfast are on the south side of the highway and property for the microbrewery is on the north side of the highway.

The proposed Snow Frog Inn bed and breakfast would offer six guest rooms in one home plus three guest rooms and onsite manager quarters in an adjacent home.

At the proposed Double Tap microbrewery across the road, two existing older homes would be removed to make way for a new 3,010-square-foot building and parking lot.

The City Council toured Zinke’s project site last week.

The planning staff maintains the project doesn’t comply with the Whitefish growth policy. Very limited commercial activity is permitted in that area, which is zoned low-density multifamily residential.

None of the commercial uses along that highway corridor comply with the growth policy, though zoning conditionally permits various commercial uses, the planning staff report noted.

Planners acknowledge the nature of the corridor is changing and likely will change even more when that stretch of U.S. 93 is rebuilt starting next year. They’d rather see a corridor study done before approving Zinke’s planned unit development.

But the consensus among Planning Board members is that the highway corridor already is changing and that business development should be encouraged. The board recommended approval of the project and voted to change several findings of fact to reflect their views.

The planning staff had advised the board that if it disagreed with the recommendation to table the project, the board would need to change many of the findings of fact and recommend adoption of 16 conditions for the project. With that direction, the Planning Board sketched out the changes.

A finding of fact that stated the project does not comply with the Whitefish growth policy was changed to say it does, in fact, comply.

The board added language to another finding, noting that “redevelopment of Highway 93 W will no longer make the arterial conducive to residential development.

“Only seven of the homes along this corridor are owner-occupied,” the finding further states. “Bed and breakfast clientele are different than hotel clientele, making it an appropriate use for this neighborhood. The brewery is a low-volume tasting room with low traffic and little neighborhood impact.”

The board took out language that stated “both proposed uses are more intensive in a predominately residential area compared with what is permitted and conditionally permitted in the WR 3 zone.”

The board also removed two conditions, one of which would have banned special events such as weddings at the bed and breakfast. The other condition would have prevented Zinke from using 122 feet of one lot for an ancillary lot for the bed and breakfast and required an impenetrable fence to be installed between the B&B lots.

Several neighbors have voiced concerns about increased traffic and neighborhood intrusion.

In other business, the council will hold a public hearing to consider a conditional use permit for Randy Bradley’s 11-unit condominium project and professional office complex just down the road on U.S. 93 from Zinke’s property.

That property currently is developed with a single-family home and detached garage.

Bradley’s property is zoned low-density multifamily residential — the same as Zinke’s property — but is designated high-density residential in the growth policy. The Planning Board unanimously voted to recommend Bradley’s project, which includes five professional office spaces along with the condos.

A third public hearing is a conditional use permit request by Mountain Digital Enterprises for a 100-foot-tall green cellular tower on land owned by F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co.

The council will hold a work session from 5:50 to 7 p.m. on a parking structure feasibility study. Representatives from Kimley-Horn and Associates and MMW Architects will attend.

The regular meeting begins at 7:10 p.m.; both meetings are at Whitefish City Hall.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at

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