Kalispell council scraps accessory dwelling expansion

Bret Anne Serbin, Daily Inter Lake, Kalispell, Mont.
·4 min read

Feb. 18—In a surprise move by the Kalispell City Council on Tuesday, a proposed ordinance that would have expanded the use of accessory dwelling units in the city was tossed out.

The virtual meeting took an unexpected turn when the council voted 5-4 against resuming the final reading of an ordinance to expand accessory dwelling units in Kalispell residential zones.

The decision comes on the heels of months of discussion and a first reading of a text amendment that passed on a 7-2 vote.

During the second reading of the ordinance on Feb. 1, council member Sid Daoud proposed tabling the decision because council member Sandy Carlson was absent. When Daoud made a motion to pick the item back off the table Tuesday, the ordinance failed to earn the appropriate amount of support among the council.

"What we're looking at is basically it's a dead issue at this point in time and needs to be picked up as a new issue going forward," explained Mayor Mark Johnson.

It came as a surprise to some because of the widespread support that pushed the ordinance through on the first reading. Three members of the council, Sandy Carlson, Tim Kluesner and Sam Nunnally, who originally voted in favor of the ordinance during its first reading, voted against picking the item up off the table. They joined Johnson and council member Chad Graham in voting against resuming the accessory dwelling conversation.

The discussion was complicated not only by the apparent shift in attitudes among many council members, but also because of uncertainty throughout the council about the tabling process.

Daoud had pushed the council to table the second reading until the following council meeting when he expected the entire council to be present for the vote. Tabling an action item is traditionally meant to delay discussion until a later point in an active meeting, rather than a future meeting, but Daoud only realized this element of government procedure after the motion passed.

Despite the confusion, the council went ahead on Tuesday with its usual process for picking an item up off the table, including the requirement for the council to vote on reviving the tabled issue.

"It was really all kind of a mess up," admitted Johnson during the bedlam Tuesday. "But it was consistent with our prior council practices."

Ultimately, the council decided to revisit the idea of expanding accessory dwelliing units with a potential new ordinance that will be unveiled at the council's next work session on Monday, Feb. 22.

IN OTHER business, numerous dissenting opinions were offered regarding a potential mask mandate for the city of Kalispell and a return to in-person council meetings.

Hunter proposed the city adopt a mask mandate following Gov. Greg Gianforte's decision to remove the statewide requirement last Friday. The proposal gained just enough support, from Hunter, Waterman, Gabriel, Carlson and Johnson, to be included in the discussion for next week's work session.

Carlson also asked if the council would soon return to the council chambers at City Hall, at which point Johnson — notably unmasked in his usual seat inside the chambers — reported he had recently recovered from a case of COVID-19. He warned council members about the potential disruptions they might face if they were to meet in person and expose one another during a meeting.

"I urge everybody, don't make the mistake your mayor made," Johnson said.

City Manager Doug Russell, who reportedly was required to quarantine after contact with Johnson, but tested negative for the coronavirus, promised city staff would look into creating a socially distanced setup inside the council chambers and virtual access for members of the public, starting with the work session scheduled for next Monday.

Finally, the council voted unanimously to approve the designation of the new Parkline Trail as a city park with an extended closing time of 2 a.m. and 24-hour travel allowed on the path itself.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.

This story has been updated to correct that Tim Kluesner, not Kari Gabriel, voted against picking the ADU discussion up from the table.