After a surprise visit from Santa on Monday, members of the Missoula City Council approved an ordinance allowing more chickens in city limits. They zoned Sonata Park and sang praises of Councilman Jack Reidy.
Sonata Park was zoned and subdivided for 37 new houses. Reidy retires after 22 years on the council. And Santa waxed poetic about chickens before the council approved the ordinance on an 8-4 vote.
Ward 1 representatives voted against Sonata Park, proposed for the upper Rattlesnake Valley west of Duncan Drive. Both Heidi Kendall and Dave Strohmaier said the density veered too far from a plan supported by neighbors and approved earlier by the council.
"Tonight's decision is an indictment for planning in the city of Missoula," Strohmaier said.
"I do believe that planning is important. I think as a community, we need to embrace planning," Kendall said.
Kendall also voiced concern about a sewer line that would run either over or under Rattlesnake Creek. Strohmaier said he worried about fire.
Neighbors also asked the council to turn down the subdivision, saying it would set a bad precedent for dense development in the upper Rattlesnake Valley.
"The lack of support from citizens must be more than obvious to anyone," said Bill Turner.
"Why can't you wait until this area is zoned?" asked another resident.
But Ward 2 Councilman Don Nicholson said growth is coming and he supported the proposal because of planning board and staff recommendations. It would open up more homes in Missoula.
"A lot of people come to Missoula because it is a great place to live," Nicholson said.
After months of hearing impassioned testimony, the council also approved chickens in city limits. Nicholson, Reidy, Ward 4's Jon Wilkins and Ward 2's John Hendrickson voted no. Ward 5 Councilman Dick Haines changed his vote from no to yes at the last minute so he could ask later that the matter be reconsidered.
Earlier in the evening, city staff and friends paid tribute to Ward 5 Councilman Reidy, a World War II veteran and moderate council member who served on the governing body more than two decades. He retires this year.
At their regular meeting, councilors praised Reidy and other outgoing members Kendall, Nicholson and Ward 4's Jerry Ballas.
"They're a class act," said Ward 6 Councilman Ed Childers.
Mayor John Engen read a proclamation honoring Reidy and council members passed a resolution naming a council conference room after him. Reidy abstained from the vote - with a smile on his face.
"I'm a little overwhelmed by all this attention," Reidy said. "I don't know if I deserve this much attention or not, but I'll take it."
He thanked the people of Missoula for letting him serve for so long and thanked city employees and his wife for putting up with his grouchiness: "I hope that I've left the city a little better than when I came in."
The early visit by Santa - looking suspiciously like Mike Jakupcak, who earlier came to a meeting in a chicken costume - cheered council members already peppy from the tribute to Reidy. Jakupcak wished council members a "Merry Chickenmas" in a variation of "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
"The chickens were all huddled outside the city limits in pens / Awaiting the decision to stay put or gather speed, put on mittens and en masse descend," he read.
But they probably won't descend en masse. At least one council member said passage of the ordinance will probably not lead to a sudden influx of chickens in city limits.
For the rest of December, the Missoula City Council holds committee meetings but no other regular Monday night meetings.
Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at 523-5262 or at Keila.Szpaller@missoulian.com.