WHITEFISH – The Whitefish City Council is reconsidering its decision to keep the same zoning along the commercial strip of U.S. Highway 93. At a work session on Sept. 20 where no votes were cast, the council indicated it will explore ways to improve business licensing and enforcement standards, and possibly change zoning to include nonconforming businesses in the WB-2 Secondary Business District. The council agreed that forcing nonconforming or unlawful businesses to close would be improper. “To shut down businesses, I think we’re going to get lawsuits,” Councilor Phil Mitchell said. What isn’t clear is exactly how the zoning should be changed and what legal implications there might be. Until a decision is made, the city’s planning and zoning department must continue to operate in a gray area. If an unlawful business is allowed to continue running, how can the city deny a similar business that wants to open? “It puts us in an awkward situation,” City Planning and Zoning Director Dave Taylor said. But the city also acknowledges it’s a slippery slope to begin changing zoning laws for a handful of businesses. For example, city officials discussed adding language to the zoning laws that allows sporting goods stores over 8,000 feet, which would make Army-Navy Surplus legal. Sporting goods stores are not currently allowed uses in the WB-2. Councilor John Muhlfeld said such a move could be viewed as unfair to sporting goods stores that have invested in the downtown district. “It goes back to my issue of changing zoning to accommodate illegal uses,” Muhlfeld said. On Aug. 16, council voted against a proposal to change zoning to include more retail uses in the WB-2 district on Highway 93. Council instead directed staff to pursue better enforcement of current zoning and find a way to grandfather in existing nonconforming businesses. At a Sept. 7 meeting, Councilor Turner Askew said the council had made “a terrible mistake” with its earlier vote by leaving an untenable zoning situation with potential legal implications. Council voted 5-1 to reconsider expanded retail uses in the WB-2 zone, which led to the Sept. 20 work session. There are five or six businesses in the district that are considered nonconforming or unlawful. City Attorney Mary VanBuskirk said if the city makes concessions for these businesses, other businesses with similar uses could claim lack of due process or unfairness if they’re not also allowed. “I call them the ‘me too’ businesses,” VanBuskirk said. The city has identified weaknesses in its zoning enforcement and business licensing standards. Improvements in these areas, city officials believe, could help to solve some of the problems in the WB-2. But Mayor Mike Jenson said part of the burden falls on the business owners to understand zoning laws and make sure they’re in compliance. “They can do anything they want until they get caught?” Jenson said. “They have no obligation to research their position in town?” Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. There were only a few days until the next concert, and the Glacier High School band was getting ready, working its way through a complicated, fast-paced piece of music.“OK, I’ve got to get something off my chest,” David Barr, band director and music teacher at GHS, said. “I’ve been thinking this for a while. Trumpets — don’t let it slow down in that section. You start with the right speed, then it slows.”To the untrained ear, the piece sounded like it had gone off without a hitch, but this band and its members are detail oriented and ready to fix tiny imperfections to create something magical.It’s in this spirit of passion and exuberance that the Glacier High School marching band hopes to raise enough money to attend and play in the 2019 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.Montana Sen. Steve Daines nominated the Glacier High marching band for the honor of appearing in the parade, where they will be featured alongside bands from all 50 states on May 27. The American Veterans Center and Music Celebrations International are hosting the parade.The parade will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which takes place on June 6.“It’s a huge honor,” Barr said. “I can’t wait for these kids who haven’t been to D.C. before to experience their Capitol. We talk a lot about patriotism and the music behind that, and that goes with this parade.”Among the educational sightseeing opportunities for the students will be a tour of Arlington National Cemetery with the students’ participation in a special U.S. military wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.While they’ve got the chops to be there, getting to D.C. will take work. The cost of this trip for each student is $1,600, including airfare, bus transportation in D.C., hotels, meals, and activities. Barr said he couldn’t expect his students’ parents to foot the full $1,600 bill, so each of the 90-plus band members are responsible for $750. Parents and students hope to make up the remaining balance of $70,000 through fundraising.So far, fundraising efforts include a specially labeled Montana Coffee Traders coffee, and potentially a musical gala dinner at the Flathead County Fairgrounds. Barr said the community should keep an eye on the band’s Facebook page for updated event information and an online donation page.Already, the band members have sold fruit and raffle tickets for a truck.“Anyone who donates to us, I feel honored that they would spend money on our students,” Barr said.Senior Evan Kohler, 18, said he was thrilled at the idea of rounding out his music career playing the tuba at Glacier with such a trip.“I’ve always been involved in band, and we went to Salt Lake City, and then Seattle,” Kohler said. “Now we could go more than 15 hours away to perform on the national stage.”“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” said fellow senior and trumpet player Haily Brown.Both students have played in a school band for seven years and love it for the simple reason that it lets them express themselves in a way nothing else can.“I love that it’s something different every day,” Kohler said. “There is so much you can do with music, and no matter what you do, you can always get better.”“It’s a way to speak without saying anything,” Brown, 18, said.As they made their way through the difficult musical piece preparing for the concert, the band worked in concert, a few dozen knees bobbing to the same rhythm and expecting the best of one another.“Hey, that was a really good rehearsal,” Barr told his band as they got moving to the next period.Donations can be sent to Glacier High School, c/o David Barr, 375 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, 59901.