Trodding on private property rights looks like it will cost the city of Missoula $191,350 in the Clark Fork Terrace II development.

A settlement agreement that inched to a close Wednesday notes the city will pay $60,000 for attorney fees to developer and plaintiff Neighborhoods By Design. Neighborhoods By Design, which won in court, also likely will get a break on $131,350 in impact fees.

The Missoula City Council Committee of the Whole took up Wednesday this agreement and one for Pleasant View. Both developments landed in court during the contentious heyday of building in Missoula, but they look to be wrapping up.

"I'd almost forgotten how much fun we had with subdivisions back when we used to do these things," said Councilman Dave Strohmaier.

The committee Wednesday gave the Neighborhoods By Design settlement agreement its OK, and the matter looks headed for full approval Monday.

Councilwoman Pam Walzer, though, said she wants to hear from people who live in the Pleasant View subdivision before signing off on that contract.

That's because the outcome will affect a park in the neighborhood, one of the newer developments west of Reserve Street. Walzer said she's visited with some residents who believe the area was built on their backs.

"They're quite upset with the developer," Walzer said.

In that subdivision, Pleasant View Homes sued the city of Missoula, alleging the city was requiring payments for parkland when the developer already had contributed enough in land. Last spring, Missoula County District Court denied both parties' request for summary judgment, and the parties are attempting to negotiate out of court instead of heading to trial.

The offer from Pleasant View Homes, of John and Carolyn Diddel, is for $20,240, according to the proposed settlement. The letter, from Reep, Bell & Laird, notes the developers already put in more money than required to maintain the bare park.

"Frankly, I believe our position will be sustained by the district court," wrote attorney Richard Reep in the letter. "But even if the City prevails, we believe that my clients will not be exposed to any greater value and may well have a much lesser value to pay."

The city never calculated an alternate dollar figure, according to the city attorney. But Councilwoman Stacy Rye said she found the agreement distasteful and the land the developer counts as a park as more of a wasteland.

"It's not parkland. No part of that is parkland. It's a soggy mess," Rye said.

Walzer said the amount won't pay for much of a park, either. She understands that heading to trial might mean the city gets even less money - or none at all - so she wants to know if residents want to risk going to trial or prefer to settle.

Both agreements will be before the Missoula City Council on Monday, Dec. 13, at its regular meeting at 140 W. Pine St.

Bob Brugh's Neighborhoods By Design lawsuit was definitively decided when the court ruled last spring the city had unfairly tried to take property without compensation. The Pleasant View case, though, remains unresolved.

The lawsuit was partly about whether the developer could count some narrow strips toward a requirement for parks, and Councilwoman Marilyn Marler said it was frustrating to not have an answer.

"Are we going to have to go through this again?" Marler said.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

 

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