NewsMissoula County


Current Events: New zoning codes, energy efficiency, recreation center expansion

Posted at 10:37 AM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 12:43:03-04

MISSOULA - We chatted with Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston to learn more about efforts to revamp of local building codes, energy-efficiency efforts, and a proposed upgrade to a popular Missoula swimming destination.

"The County is doing land-use reform, and the City is doing code reform as well, and while this doesn't sound very sexy it's actually a very big deal. On the city side, it's an effort to streamline all codes, all policies, all major buildings, which has all streamlined the process to make it easier for residents to have predictability, to know what is around them,” Kidston explained.

“For developers, it will make it a more predictable for developers to know what they can and can't do. Part of the problem over the last couple of years is that the City's growth policy doesn't align with current zoning. The growth policy is an idealistic idea of how the city wants to grow. The zoning does something completely different now, so the city more often than not has rezoned properties. That is a pain in the rear for developers, and it also causes unneeded unpredictability for neighborhoods. This code reform will bring all this into alignment once and for all.”

“I think generally it will be a positive. There may be some nuances to this that may cause some controversy, such as changing policy in established neighborhoods," Kidston continued. "If you live in a traditional single-family neighborhood where the city may look at changing zoning. It could bring changes to some established neighborhoods, but it could add predictability to others to know who is going to move in next door.

A familiar name moving back into the picture in Missoula with Bryan von Lossberg tapped to head up clean energy efforts in Missoula.

“Bryan von Losssberg served a couple of terms on city council, the last term as council president. He has been foremost in the city's effort to attain 100% clean electricity. Some of his other climate goals include [the] Zero Waste initiative. He was on the city council when all these policies and goals were adopted,” Kidston said. “He left the council last year, but the city has hired him as a consultant to help the city pursue those goals while the city's new climate action specialist gets up to speed. That's a new position that the city-funded last year in the budget with a private action specialist.”

“They're paying von Lossberg with what is left of that. Both efforts will lead the city closer to achieving their climate goals, they hope. They're working with NorthWestern Energy on a green tariff,” Kidston continued. “Bryan knows all these things, he's familiar with the players. He has partnerships, he's an energy expert in some ways. He'll be a big help with the city, moving in the right direction there.

Finally, Missoula City Council has approved the concept design to upgrade Missoula Currents in an effort to make it bigger and a lot more versatile. But, there hasn't been a lot of talk about how to pay for the proposed changes.

“We've seen what direction that takes in the past. This is a $44 million project, which is probably beyond the reach of simple fundraising and bake sales. In that past -- like we've seen with the library and Fort Missoula Regional Park -- these projects are paid for with a general obligation bond,” Kidston noted. “While we're not sure because they haven't stated so, there is a possibility that Missoula voters could be voting on this year or next."