Neighbors showed up in organized force Monday night to the City Council meeting opposing a new townhome development in the Orchard Homes area, and they succeeded in at least delaying the development until the new year.

Around two dozen people protested a proposed 31-unit development off of Hamilton and Grove Streets, largely because they felt it clashed with the immediately surrounding single-family houses and would bring too much traffic to the area.

“We’re not opposed to development,” one neighbor, Bob Harkin said. “We’re after safe, logical development for our neighborhood.”

After all the public comment, Ward 4 representative John DiBari elected to send the proposal back to committee for further review. The next available meeting will be in early January, 2018.

The development is part of more than six acres owned by the Kolendich family located at the end of the Milwaukee Trail to the west of South Reserve Street. Most of the land is to be open space along the Clark Fork River, with an extension of the Milwaukee Trail.

“It is difficult. I understand,” Paul Forsting, the Kolendich family’s representative with Territorial Landworks said, adding, “We’re talking about 30 houses here.”

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To take place this year, the council set a public hearing, for Dec. 18, to discuss a change in city law specifically detailing the illegality of living out of an RV or camper parked on city streets, to address “less than a handful of cases.”

One such issue is an ongoing court case against a Missoula man who’s lived out of an RV with his wife for nearly two years, in two different locations, according to court documents.

Police have responded to dozens of calls regarding the couple and the city filed in court to ban them from dumping waste, trash and parking for months on end.

District court Judge Karen Townsend found in the city’s favor, though the case has been stalled due to the couple’s refusal to show up for scheduled hearings.

The new ordinance will help in these kind of extreme cases, Development Services Director Mike Haynes wrote in a memo to city council.

Current city law and City-County Health Department regulations widely address urban camping, in any vehicle, “it has become evident that ordinance changes are needed to very specifically address what is and is not permitted in this regard, so that when enforcement and/or legal actions become necessary the city’s regulations are clear and defensible.”

The updated ordinance purposefully doesn’t mandate any jail time for offenders, and lays only a $100 fine on noncompliant people.

Haynes told the city council Public Works committee last week the update really was only meant to address cases where the city is forced to take legal action and that neither the city nor the health department are seeking out such situations, just responding to neighborhood reports. 

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