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Missoula development seeks mixed-use zoning, maximum density and spring start

Posted at 10:35 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 12:35:27-05

MISSOULA — The last subdivision proposed under old city regulations in the Mullan area made an appearance Wednesday before members of the Missoula City Council, who will consider the 20-acre project and its mixed-use vision in the coming weeks.

Unlike other surrounding subdivisions zoned as residential, including 44 Ranch, Flynn Ranch and Remington Flats, the developers behind McNett Flats are seeking mixed-use zoning and maximum density, providing around 660 residential units.

According to the city, Missoula needs an estimated 800 new housing units each year to keep pace with demand and population growth.

The mixed-use designation would allow for commercial developments like retail, offices or restaurants. While McNett Flats outlines plans for housing, planners said the type of housing, including apartments, duplexes or single-family homes, will be determined as the development progresses to meet current demand.

“The first lot I am guessing will be going straight to multi-family to provide a severely lacking service to the community. That’s all I know for right now,” said Kody Swartz, an engineer with Woith Engineering. “As we move through and see how the market changes and fluctuates, as instructed, there could be variable products coming online.”

Earlier this February, the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board approved McNett Flats on a 6-3 vote. Some members were conflicted over the uncertainty of the project’s future development and whether mixed-use zoning was appropriate for the area.

The development would extend George Elmer Drive through the center of the subdivision. In a traffic impact study conducted last year, maximum density development in the subdivision would add around 3,500 daily vehicle trips to the area.

The study mentions undergoing plans to construct a traffic signal for the intersection of George Elmer Drive and Mullan Road in anticipation of the increased traffic. The study also recommends developers contribute to the installation of a roundabout at the intersection of Cattle Drive and George Elmer Drive.

McNett Flats is the last of the developing subdivisions that’s not following the Sx͏ʷtpqyen (Mullan) Master Plan approved by Missoula City Council last December. The plan is intended to guide development in consistent and coherent manner in the Mullan Area.

“Both Title 20 and the Sx͏ʷtpqyen Master Plan provide a menu of land uses that could occur on the property, so they’re not all that different,” said Dave DeGrandpre, City of Missoula planner. “We won’t be focusing on architectural-type design. You don’t have specific slated plans for future development. It’s a little bit lower level of detail that you’ll see at this stage. Whereas in forthcoming developments, you’ll see more detail at this stage.”

Like all subdivisions, the proposal has met some opposition from local neighbors. According to the city’s associate planner Emily Gluckin, neighbors have submitted 12 petitions, but only six have been verified. Eight verified petitions are needed to meet the threshold requiring the council to pass the subdivision with a supermajority vote.

Several written public comments expressed concern over how the subdivision would affect the character of the neighborhood and the value of surrounding houses.

If the subdivision is approved in March, the estimated timeline for development on the property would see plans drafted in the spring and constructed later in 2021. The first residency would be available in 2022 and the rest of the lots developed past 2022.

“McNett Flats provides a subdivision that can meet the goals of the planning efforts, with an initial effort on creating density and to support the community,” said Spencer Woith, president of Woith Engineering. “Ultimately, McNett Flats is an opportunity to create catalysts for growth in a fledgling region of the city.”

The Land Use and Planning Committee will vote on the subdivision and annexation Feb. 24.