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Plan for Bigfork parking lot moves forward

April 5, 2018

The Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee voted unanimously March 29 to approve an application by the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts to turn an 0.8:acre lot off of Grand Avenue into a public parking lot.

The committee also voted to recommend the rezoning of the property from a commercial retail resort (CRV) zone to a B-3 zone like the neighboring property, allowing for a standalone lot without a connected building.

The motion will move the application on to the next step, where it will go before the Bigfork Planning Board on April 11 with a recommendation for the board to approve it.

The proposed lot would consist of 50 to 75 paved parking spaces, eventually to be lit and monitored by security cameras.

The hill located at the north end of the property would be partially graded to provide a second tier of parking, connected by a ramp from the first tier. No structure would be built on the property, according to Paul Mutascio, president of the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork.

The performing arts center purchased the land located on the north side of Grand Avenue just east of the Bigfork Inn with help from the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork and the Bigfork Community Development Foundation Trust, following two years of negotiations spearheaded by Walter Kuhn, the project’s main coordinator.

Nearly 20 community members turned out for the advisory committee meeting Thursday, raising questions about potential stormwater build up, the enforcement of a no overnight parking restriction, bright lighting concerns and potential public restroom facilities.

According to Mutascio, who spoke on behalf of Kuhn, engineering for the project was completed last week with stormwater regulations taken into account and a few modifications made to the original plans.

Mutascio said sheriff’s deputies would patrol the lot for violations at night and all future lighting would mirror the rest of downtown Bigfork with capped bulbs that comply with dark sky ordinances.

Though currently available funding would not cover the cost of a public restroom on the lot, Mutascio agreed the amenity would make a great addition and said he hoped that with additional fundraising it might become possible in the future.

Construction of the parking lot will require the eventual removal of buildings currently housing Blush Salon and Bigfork Frame Shop, but according to Kuhn, the buildings will not be removed for at least another year.

In the meantime, he and his partners are working with the owners of both businesses to help them relocate to suitable venues.

The parking lot, according to Kuhn, would nearly double the amount of free public parking available downtown, benefitting tourists, locals and business owners.

Kuhn estimated the total renovation of the property - including surveying, engineering, layout design, grading, implementation of drainage, curb gutters, lighting and security cameras, paving and landscaping - will take between three and four years to complete once the project is approved and will cost around $250,000.

All comments related to the lot during the meeting were positive, and everyone present expressed unanimous support for the project.

The Planning Board meeting addressing the parking lot will take place Wednesday, April 11 at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the South Campus Building at 40 11th Street West, Kalispell.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.