At the end of this past week, the church received a public notice of proposed land use from the Whitefish Planning Department. It informs us that Fresh Life Church is requesting a Conditional Use Permit to construct a new building with a church and retail spaces on property that was previously occupied by the Lakestream Fly Shop. The proposal requests zero property lines so that the building can be constructed to the property edges. According to a phone conversation I had this morning with the planning department, this does not include the coffee/cyclery next door.
This coming Wednesday evening, when the Session meets, we will be discussing this proposal. I have already urged members of the Session to send emails to the Planning Commission opposing the plan. I encourage you to do the same, and I’d like to share with you my concerns.
Let me make it clear that I do not oppose the building of new churches in Whitefish. Our community certainly benefits from an enriched Christian presence. And I do not see another church in the neighborhood as a “turf” issue. We are after all, one of three churches in a two block area. My concern focuses upon the unintended consequences that will come with the building. As we are all aware, parking is becoming more of a premium in downtown even on Sunday mornings. The only nearby public parking lot is across the street at 3rd and Central. On Sunday mornings, this lot is used by FPC, St. Charles, the Buffalo and other retail business open at that time. The loss of the Frank Lloyd Wright parking lot and limited on street parking, puts more pressure on the surrounding neighborhood to absorb the additional parking needs. And the city parking garage is not a viable option for elderly and disabled people. If people can’t find a place to park or if they have to struggle with finding parking, it will negatively impact our ministry here. For that reason, particularly in the summer, we limit what we do here. There is just no place to park. Add to the existing parking problems a new church and retail space and we could very quickly end up with no parking at all near the church.
If you see this as an issue, I encourage you to send an email to Richard Hildner at firstname.lastname@example.org by 4:00 pm today. Responses received by today will be enclosed in the packets to the Planning Board members. This item is also docketed for presentation at the next planning board meeting on Thursday, January 18, 6pm in the City Council Chambers, City Hall. I encourage you to be present for that meeting.
If you have any questions at all, please let me know.