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A 1,036-acre open space purchase? Check.

A windmill regulation? Approved.

A new – and yes, curious – holiday called “Star Day”? Proclaimed as such by Mayor John Engen.

These items and others were given the nod Monday during a Missoula City Council meeting, one that adjourned just 56 minutes after it began.

The council unanimously agreed to spend $175,000 of 2006 city open space money to buy a $400,000 conservation easement that protects the Quebec Deschamps Creek Ranch. The Board of County Commissioners, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Deschamps family also will contribute to the purchase.

“Thank you so much, Mr. and Mrs. Deschamps and your whole family,” said Councilwoman Marilyn Marler. “This is a wonderful thing.”

Songbirds live in the property’s woody draws, and elk and deer depend on the land for food in the winter, said the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Mike Mueller. He described the views from the working farm and ranch just north of the Wye as “spectacular.”

At the meeting, the Board of County Commissioners also agreed to spend $175,000 of county open space money on the land, appraised at $673,400. Commissioner Bill Carey was absent.

Council meetings sometimes can be more dull than delicious, but Monday, one young man brought full smiles to the affair. That’s Samuel Marceca, almost 9, and already sending letters to the mayor.

A while back, Mayor Engen read the briefest request asking the city to create a new holiday, “Star Day.” Well, the mayor thought, why not have “Star Day”?

So on Monday, Engen proclaimed Oct. 14, 2010, as “Star Day.” That’s the birthday of Samuel Marceca, who grinned from the back row and kept his feet hooked around the legs of his chair as the mayor read the proclamation.

“Whereas, Sam is a selfless boy who gave all of the money in his piggy bank to a family who had lost their home in a fire ... ,” reads the proclamation, in part.

Why stars? Samuel is a proponent of people making their own constellations, and he likes the way stars come out every night on someone’s birthday.

He said he’ll frame the signed proclamation and keep it next to his bed: “If you’re really happy, look at the stars and make something powerful happen.”

In other business, the council approved a law that regulates wind generators in city limits. The law generally allows one wind generator no bigger than 25 kilowatts per lot, with limits for noise, height, design, maintenance and multiple units.


Councilman Jason Wiener brought the idea forward after hearing from a constituent who wants to install a wind generator. The Rattlesnake resident plans to put up a unit estimated to stand at 7 to 10 feet tall and yield anywhere from 3 kilowatt-hours to as many as 10 kwh hours a day.

“It’s a good way to generate energy with a lower footprint,” Wiener said.

Eleven councilors voted yes and Councilwoman Renee Mitchell abstained, saying she had doubts about the idea. Councilman Jon Wilkins approved the idea, but he also voiced concerns.

“All I have to say is buyer beware, and shop around if you really think you’re going to get your return on your investment,” Wilkins said.

The council also voted 9-3 on a development tool intended to help build “small lot projects.” On a sliding scale, the ordinance gives developers who build “permanently affordable” homes a density bonus, the option to build on smaller lots, and leeway with building standards.

Councilors Dick Haines, Mitchell and Lyn Hellegaard voted against the ordinance. Hellegaard said she still had concerns about the idea but declined to give an example.

During her council comments, Hellegaard also said her name still is missing from the list of property owners who protested the special districts, or new taxes for parks and streets. Councilman Jon Wilkins turned in to City Hall three sheets of signatures from people – including himself and Hellegaard – protesting the districts; Hellegaard said his name appears in the record, but hers does not.

Chief administrative officer Bruce Bender said city staff already conducted a thorough search for protests and accounted for ones that had been lost. In an earlier interview, he said the city had been able to confirm protests of people who called the city to make sure opposition was counted.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, or on

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