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Current Events: Development changes in the works for Missoula

Posted at 11:58 AM, Feb 07, 2022

MISSOULA - We take a look at some possible zoning and coding covering area housing and development with Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston.

"The city has been working on its housing policy for a couple of years, and it continues to evolve. The county said late last year that they will be adopting a housing policy. Those pieces are moving forward. Now the city and the county will be looking at various pieces including zoning plans, coding,” Kidston said.

“On the city side. I think we'll need to buckle down because it's going to be a long ride. The city is going to dig into some code reform, ways they can incentivize affordable housing and transportation. Some different kinds of land uses, some novel concepts they hope to bring to the table. They can also look at some regulatory reform, possibly moving some barriers that make building a little more expensive, such as parking and other things like that. It's going to be a long process.”

“Zoning is not something you do in one day and walk away and come back to it 20 years later because we all know cities and communities evolve year after year. This is a living document but it's going to be a deep dig, starting very shortly and it's going to be a long and tenuous process. It should be interesting to watch, to see what comes from that,” Kidston continued.

“On the county side, they too are digging into some of their zoning tools. We saw the problem with some of the county's outdated zoning rules last month when a developer in East Missoula tried to get something cleared there and the county didn't want to move forward because they hadn't started on their new zoning. They didn't want to see something adopted out of old zoning. So they'll be digging into updating their own zoning, which is also needed. It may not be as complex as the zoning needed on the city side but it is still needed,” Kidston said.

There could possibly be some new neighborhoods coming in, or new zoning requests – subdivisions locally as well.

"The city was very firm that there could be a number of projects coming forward here in the next few months. A couple of smaller subdivisions, one sizeable subdivision. They didn't give a lot of details, but they did say they were coming down the pipe. They also suggested there was a sizable rezoning request. They didn't detail that either, but they usually don't for proprietary reasons, to protect the developer until they're ready to reveal the project. But they suggest these things are on the table,” Kidston explained.

“We may also see some activity downtown as well this year. There's one property on the River Front Triangle which should be closer to moving to development and the city has said numerous times over the last few months that a hotel and conference center may be back on that table. That would be exciting. We know that the Missoulian property is up for redevelopment and I've been told the Missoulian will actually be moving out of there in March, so we could see activity down there sometime this summer."

The River Front Triangle project could see some traction after years of delays in downtown Missoula, so are city officials getting close to seeing something happen?

“I think they are. When you think about the cost of these properties and that alone would be incentive to get a project started. We'll see what evolves. Missoula's got its hands full with growth and development,” Kidston noted. “It's exciting to live in a growing community. We do need to balance affordable housing with private development and let them play out side by side. We'll see what takes place in the next year and what comes to fruition."