Council paints unclear picture of design standards along the trail


It’s unclear what the future of development will look like along Kalispell Park after a city council working session on Monday.

The council discussed the possibility of implementing design standards for residential and commercial buildings expected to be constructed along the new trail that runs east to west through downtown Kalispell.

The 1.6-mile multi-use trail was envisioned as a recreational convenience, transportation option, and developer draw. But during the business session, the board was divided over setting architectural standards for new developments along the way.

Board member Ryan Hunter, who originally requested the working session, called for a hands-on approach to development in the region. He highlighted the density and accessibility of pedestrians as some of the main considerations he would like to see prioritized by developers.

But many other members of Hunter’s board were uncomfortable with the idea of ​​setting high architectural standards.

Board members Sid Daoud, Tim Kluesner, and Kari Gabriel all said they’d rather keep standards to a minimum and leave design decisions to developers instead.

Gabriel said she wanted to ensure “flexibility” for developers who invest in the area around the trail.

Daoud said he was concerned that the implementation of standards would “stifle creativity” and increase development costs.

And Kluesner said he expects developers to make sound design decisions on their own, without official demands from the city.

“I hope the process will be there,” Kluesner said.

Proponents of a more laissez-faire approach argued that the city’s architectural review committee could advise developers on the proper design of the site.

But some of the city staff did not seem as confident in the official process as Kluesner and his camp.

Planning director Jarod Nygren said: “If you want something, you have to create a standard, because the architectural review board can’t go any further. “

Nygren explained that the CRA is required to review all new developments larger than a single-family home or duplex within city limits. But the committee does not have the power to establish new regulations.

That’s why the CRA visited the city last year to set historic design standards for downtown Kalispell.

Establishing this set of guidelines enabled the CRA to decide on paint colors, construction materials and signage for buildings in the historic corridor along Main Street. These standards aim to preserve the historic character of the city center.

They served as a model for potential standards discussed during the working session, but there did not appear to be widespread support for adopting such specific guidelines along the trail.

A public commentator expressed support for Hunter’s proactive strategy. Luke Rummage said he could see what features the council didn’t want in future developments, but he didn’t paint a clear picture of his desired expectations for the buildings along the trail.

Another working session participant, Karlene Khor, spoke about development in another part of town. Khor listed concerns she had as the owner of nearby real estate about a proposal to build a boutique hotel, known as The Charles Hotel, on the corner of Third Street West and Main Street. .

Kluesner asked the mayor to further investigate Khor’s claims about the proposed hotel.

Journalist Bret Anne Serbin can be reached at 406-758-4459 or [email protected]

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