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Council approves zone change for Boys and Girls Club

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | January 10, 2024 2:00 AM

The Columbia Falls City Council last week approved a zone change request for the Boys and Girls Club of Glacier Country.

The club has purchased 3 acres of land for a new facility and sought a zone change from CR-3 (one family residential) to CB-2 (general business) from the Catholic Church.

The lot is immediately adjacent to St. Richard Catholic Church.

In Columbia Falls, the club currently runs out of the former Episcopal Church and serves about 40 to 50 youths daily.

But the church is showing its age and the basement is dark and dreary. The club serves about 100 youths overall, with staff in Columbia Falls and Evergreen.

It continues to search for a permanent CEO.

Last year the club sought a roughly $600,000 state Community Development Block Grant. But because the site had no infrastructure, the state turned the grant down for the time being, until it could be installed.

Freedom Bank earlier this year guaranteed a line of credit of $299,000 to install the infrastructure.

Former interim CEO Justin Lee told city council the plan is to eventually build a facility that will not only serve the community’s youth, but also be a community center for everyone.

“It’s for the community,” he told council. “Not just for the Boys and Girls Club.”

The club hasn’t started a formal capital campaign for the facility, which is based on the Boys and Girls Club in Lake County.

Lee was hesitant to talk about exact details of the facility, as they keep changing, but the basic plan is for a gym, a commercial kitchen and classrooms. The demand is certainly there, however.

Once built, it would serve about 300 to 400 youths daily. Some neighbors have expressed concerns about the lighting and other impacts to the neighborhood to the south, but Lee noted that the club is pretty much done with its programs early in the evenings, so the lights would be shut off anyway.