initiated zone change to create an interim enterprise overlay zone in Evergreen. The change would allow a variety of light industrial uses in addition to the commercial business zones along the U.S. 2 and Montana 35 corridors.
The existing business zones, geared toward retail sales, were put in place about 25 years ago and now may be hindering the Evergreen community from transitioning to a broader economic base, business leaders contend.
TJ Wendt, chairman of the Evergreen Chamber’s Economic development Committee, met with the Flathead County Planning Board in June during a board work session to discuss the Chamber’s concern about the retail-focused zoning along the commercial corridors. The Planning Board is in the throes of updating the county’s zoning regulations.
Discussion about an overlay zone continued through the summer, and
the board will vote Wednesday on the proposed enterprise zone. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the second-floor conference room of the Earl Bennett Building, 1035 First Ave. W. in Kalispell, but it is not a public hearing. Public comments will be taken, however, at the beginning of the meeting. The board then will adjourn to a work session on updating zoning regulations.
The county commissioners have the final say on whether to authorize the Planning Office to proceed with the staff work to establish an enterprise zone in the Evergreen Zoning District. They will vote on the matter Oct. 30.
“I think this is a very creative, but very safe way to look for more flexibility” in bringing life back to buildings such as the former Wal-Mart and Rex Appliance facilities, said BJ Lupton, president of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce. “I’m very optimistic and hopeful this will be embraced by the entire community.”
The Chamber membership voted overwhelmingly in support of the proposed enterprise zone at a meeting last week.
Lupton wrote a letter to the Flathead County Planning Board earlier this month, outlining the need to expand the commercial uses, especially in light of several vacant buildings in the Evergreen community.
“In the effort to encourage and recruit viable economic activity in vacant commercial property, we have observed notable unwillingness by owners, investors and business interests to become involved in the Evergreen corridor due to narrow constraints of our existing zoning,” Lupton said.
“Basically, our Chamber of Commerce is extremely interested in finding a very workable mechanism, worthy of endorsement by all citizens, that will make our zoning more flexible and business-friendly,” he continued.
The enterprise zone would allow light assembly and manufacturing, fabrication and processing, storage facilities, warehousing and distribution of products and equipment provided those uses don’t have objectionable impacts beyond the lot lines and don’t involve hazardous or explosive materials.
If approved, the enterprise zone would be in place for two years as interim zoning. Vacancies and land uses would be inventoried before, during and after to measure the impact, and if the new zoning has no effect or negatively impacts the community, then it can simply expire, Planning Director BJ Grieve said.
The zone would run along both sides of U.S. 2 from the Kalispell city limits north to Rose Crossing and along Montana 35 to the intersection with Helena Flats Road.
By LYNNETTE HINTZE/Daily Inter Lake