NewsMissoula County


Missoula city planners hint at new housing projects as code reform, zoning work gear up

Posted at 2:23 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 17:15:20-05

MISSOULA - Missoula city and county planners on Tuesday night said a number of new subdivisions are coming down the pipeline in the coming months, along with a notable application for rezoning.

The city will also embark on what it described as a comprehensive code reform and a land-use audit while the county plans to update its own zoning regulations.

With a new year underway and new members of the Consolidated Planning Board now seated, city and county officials provided board members with a prequel of what they can expect as the year advances. The new year will come with additional growth and new development, both in the city and surrounding valley.

“Over the next couple of months, we have some subdivisions and rezoning coming your way in the city,” said city planner Dave DeGrandpre. “In April, we have a quite sizable rezoning request. You’ll be seeing plenty of phased subdivision come in through the city.”

The county also expects to see some new subdivision proposals this year, though county planners said it won’t likely be until early summer.

Many of the pending subdivision projects will include phased development, and with changes in state law, housing officials will see how they advance under the new rules.

“We’ve spent a lot of our energy in the past year dealing with 15- to 20-year-old phased subdivisions that existed before the 2017 law went into effect and basically put a 20-year sunset period on phased development,” said county planner Tim Worley. “It’s been interesting seeing brand new phased subdivisions come forward. They don’t look radically different than the old phased subdivisions, but there are some sideboards now that didn’t exist before.”

A number of projects unveiled last year also are expected to advance this year, including several downtown. The old Missoulian property is slated for redevelopment, along with several parcels in the Riverfront Triangle.

As the work gears up, the city plans to embark on a comprehensive code reform, including a unified development code. It’s been high on the radar for the past several years and could bring significant changes to the existing code including housing, transportation, and land use.

It could also attempt to rezone traditional single-family neighborhood into something else, though that could be controversial and would come with some resistance from property owners. However it plays out, city planners said it will be a long process.

“Rather than having a variety of regulations scattered across various agencies and departments, we’ll put them all in the same place,” said city planner Ben Brewer. “They’ll all be together, easy to find, streamlined and clear, and aligned with one another. It’ a pretty big project in itself.”

Brewer said the work will also include some level of “code innovation.” That would include coordinating and aligning existing rules and making improvements where needed. It could also identify new ways to achieve outcomes sought by the city.

Brewer added that it could include changes to the zoning map and another look at the city’s growth policy.

“We don’t know at this point what the strategies are, but we’re planning to look at things comprehensively,” he said. “We’re just about to get going on what’s going to be a very long process. But it’s shaping up to be exciting and interesting.”

Missoula County will also begin work to update its zoning codes. The work will play out as construction kicks off in the greater Mullan area and new projects come forward.

DeGrandpre said zoning both in the city and county will continue to evolve.

“You can’t just adopt zoning and walk away and let development happen over the next 20 years,” he said. “Communities develop organically over time. We want to make sure it fits some of the character. But we also have to recognize there’s a need for change, that change is necessary in certain areas and is desirable in certain areas. We have changing needs in our community.”