MISSOULA — The Missoula City Council got its first look at a request to rezone half a Westside block to accommodate a housing project that would boost the number of units currently located on the property.
But the development, proposed by Westside Village LLC, will displace several residents still living on the property, leading some council members to voice frustration, saying they should have been informed of the situation sooner.
“I would love for us to have a process in place whereby City Council is alerted to these situations before these things get scheduled for the planning board agenda,” said council member Julie Merritt. “I hate learning about these things from the news when they’ve got a dozen or so families getting displaced from their homes.”
The Missoula Current reported in March that the Consolidated City-County Planning Board had reviewed and approved the zoning request on a unanimous vote. Some members of the council suggested it was the first time they became aware of the proposal.
“Maybe there’s not a lot we can do at this point in this process,” said Merritt. “But I’d like a process where City Council can be better informed.”
The development looks to replace a handful of mobile homes on a half-city block at Shakespeare and Burton streets with 24 new apartment units, each slate for market-rate rent.
The project would result in an increase in housing and modernize what’s currently on the property, which is owned by the development family.
Paul Forsting, a representative of the developer, said that current residents have been notified of the project and efforts have been made to help them relocate.
“The tenants were noticed in June that the site was going to be redeveloped,” said Forsting. “The applicant did work with the tenants and was able to relocate one.”
Of the property’s initial tenants, all have moved since last summer except three. The developer said one of those three has housing lined up for May, when their current lease expires.
One of the other two was offered housing but hasn’t responded, the developer said on Wednesday.
Westside Village has completed similar projects in Missoula and described the new units as attainable. Construction is set to begin next year and take around nine months to complete if the City Council approves the rezone in the coming weeks.
City planners and the developer said the project meets the city’s growth policy and represents an effort at infill development near existing services.
“It’s infill. It complies with the growth policy,” said Forsting. “We’re close to schools. It’s a mixed use area. We have bus transportation.”