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Lacking time, planning board postpones decision on Mullan Road development

Mullan Road Development
Posted at 4:20 PM, Sep 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-05 16:21:18-04

MISSOULA — Saying it didn’t have sufficient time to reach an informed decision, the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board on Tuesday tabled a decision on whether to rezone 57 acres off Mullan Road for a proposed housing development.

Developers Dave Edgell and Wade Hoyt, represented by WGM Group, have requested a zoning change for the property that would permit higher housing densities with some commercial uses. That would permit a project similar in scale to the adjacent Hellgate Meadows and Pleasant View neighborhoods.

Nick Kaufman, a planner with WGM Group, said the zoning change is needed to keep pace with Missoula’s housing needs. The project isn’t permitted under the parcel’s current zoning.

“When you look at the zoning, that zoning district isn’t to the scale of what we want to do,” said Kaufman. “We need to get to a place where we have land-use regulations that match what we want to do and hopefully what the neighbors want to see.”

Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods maintained opposition to the project on Tuesday night. Their concerns were unchanged from the views expressed in August, when the project first went before the City Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee.

They range from traffic and density to petty crime and feared impacts on the Hellgate School District. Missoula is growing to the west and south, though some residents oppose the changes it may bring.

“Every neighborhood in Missoula has to take responsibility for absorbing some of the growth,” said resident Christine Hastings. “We have to distribute that. If we don’t, we’re just going to compound the problem.”

The 57 acre parcel is highly prized for its location to existing infrastructure, and it could help address Missoula’s housing shortage, advocates contend. If approved, the development would include an array of courtyard homes, single family homes, and several multi-family units.

Kaufman said the developers have already pledged to forgo the density permitted under the desired zoning. It would allow 43 dwelling units per acre, though they’re only seeking 20 units per acre. They’re also proposing a development agreement “to provide assurances over what might be built on the property.”

“We have neighborhood meetings to listen to what the concerns are,” Kaufman said. “We’re providing a master plan to show the intended development, the parks and common areas, and where the more intensive uses on the collector streets will go.”

The planning board was set to make a recommendation on the project ahead of the City Council’s public meeting, though board members felt they didn’t have time to reach an informed decision.

“It doesn’t do the record any justice past 10 o’clock to hear people ramble on from the planning board without coherent messages,” said board member Jason Rice. “I want to be able to think about what’s been said so it doesn’t get twisted incorrectly.”

The board is expected to continue the discussion at its next regularly scheduled meeting. It wasn’t immediately known whether the City Council would proceed with its hearing next week in the absence of a recommendation from the planning board.

-Martin Kidston reporting for the Missoula Current