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DeSmet School could be impacted in zoning discussions for Missoula’s west side

Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-14 19:51:33-05

MISSOULA – The Missoula City Council discussed the annexation and rezoning on Missoula’s west side on Wednesday.

That area was a Tax Increment Finance district for the past 20 years, but now city leaders are looking to annex and rezone that area to receive city utilities and other perks of being in the city limits.

One elementary school says zoning the district as an industrial area could close their doors for good.

On Missoula’s west side past Broadway and Reserve the city is preparing to annex and rezone about 3200 acres.

One proposal is to rezone the airport as an Aviation or A zone

“It is tailored to aviation and aviation-related uses, so if we would have gone with a standard zoning it would have been OP-3 and that is just not well-suited for airport operations, just not specific enough,” said Mike Haynes with Development Services.

The other proposal made to city council would rezone a majority of the other land in the area as industrial zoning.

DeSmet school principal Matthew Driessen says that the industrial zoning was forced upon them 20 years ago and now they want a say in the process.

“Can we take this area from Cestral Lane to the river from the interstate to Broadway and can we set that aside so that we can have an open honest discussion that includes the city the land owners the school that what were asking for,” Driessen said. “This is important because its not neccesarily a school policy. If it was a school policy I can gurantee you that non of that around our school would be light industrial this has been forced upon us and is now being forced upon us again and we want to have re dress.”

Education officials would like to see the area around DeSmet school be open to possible residential development. State House Representative Adam Hertz says that zoning the area for industrial use only is like signing the schools death warrant.

“I know that you have heard from a lot of folks, whether it be MEP or business owners out in this area,” Hertz said. “They have loud voices and money and political connections and the kids who are living in a mobile home between a junkyard out towards the Wye that attend DeSmet School District might not have a very strong voice, and I think that we really need to consider the future of DeSmet. If you adopt this zoning as is you are signing DeSmet’s death warrant. I think you need to be honest about that and have a plan.

There will be a public hearing at the Missoula City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m.