Missoula council OKs backyard houses in all neighborhoods

2013-05-07T10:00:00Z 2014-06-15T09:30:32Z Missoula council OKs backyard houses in all neighborhoods missoulian.com

On a 7-5 vote, the Missoula City Council on Monday approved an ordinance allowing “accessory dwelling units” in all residential neighborhoods within guidelines.

ADUs can be basement apartments or backyard cottages, and the secondary units have been contentious in Missoula for years. On Monday, opponents and supporters again voiced their positions on the infill option.

“ADUs are not the end of the world. They are not the end of Missoula as we know it,” said Sally Brown, who lives in the University District. “They are another affordable housing option, and as an older individual, I’m looking for those.“

Myra Shults disagreed, and she asked the council to protect her residential investment. She said she believes her property will lose value if ADUs are allowed on her block, but it will be years before a tax assessor registers the loss.

“You're destroying what we worked our whole life for,” Shults said.

Opponents voiced their disapproval of the ordinance in many public forums, but their effort to collect enough protests to force a supermajority vote was unsuccessful, according to data from the city clerk. Valid protests came to 6.4 percent in all residential areas or 10 percent in single dwelling districts when counted by area.

The numbers fell far short of the 25 percent threshold necessary – and much shorter of opponents’ estimate that they had a “vast majority,” even with their energetic campaign and most generous counting method, said Mayor John Engen.

“A majority is 51 percent. This doesn’t come close to a majority, ladies and gentlemen,” Engen said “It’s not a criticism of anyone, it is a fact.“

Engen also said he would not veto the ordinance. The regulations include many safeguards and strict hurdles for approval for the most controversial ADUs, the backyard cottages and interior apartments that add square footage to a home.

Councilors Jason Wiener, Cynthia Wolken, Bob Jaffe, Alex Taft, Mike O’Herron, Marilyn Marler and Ed Childers voted yes. Opposing the revision were Councilors Dave Strohmaier, Adam Hertz, Caitlin Copple, Jon Wilkins and Dick Haines.

As approved, the ordinance allows property owners who live in any residential neighborhood to add an interior or detached unit within guidelines. The regulation requires the owner to live on site, for instance, and it notes specific lot and design requirements.

In their discussion, councilors voted against Hertz’s motion to put the measure on the ballot instead. They also argued about whether the ordinance reflected compromise.

Wilkins, who has been a vocal opponent of infill, said none of the concessions made by the majority came from opponents. The maximum area, for instance, was reduced from 800 to 600 square feet for a detached unit.

“That was your idea ... It didn’t come from us,” Wilkins said. “So compromising? What the heck does that word mean in Missoula?“

Childers, who supported the ordinance, said if compromise means “put it somewhere else,” the council already did that a few years ago when it updated all its development regulations. This time around?

“If compromise means the difference between 800 and zero is zero, that’s not compromise,” Childers said.

Some of the general requirements in the ordinance are as follows, and some fees have yet to be determined, according to Development Services:

• Property owners who already have an ADU and want to operate above board may apply for a permit in the grace period.

• New interior units that don’t add square footage to the main home don’t require approval by the council, but do require building code and zoning review along with related fees.

• New interior units that add square footage to the home and new detached units require “conditional use” approval by the council after notice to neighbors and a public hearing. A conditional use permit runs $1,664 plus mailing costs for notifications.

In other business, the council unanimously approved spending $200,000 of the city’s portion of the 2006 Open Space bond toward purchasing and preserving the Garden City Harvest River Road Neighborhood Farm and Community Garden. The total cost is $440,000.

Reach Keila Szpaller at @keilaszpaller, at keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5262.

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(20) Comments

  1. 70seebs
    Report Abuse
    70seebs - May 10, 2013 12:41 am
    Only 19 comments? Wow, this is the biggest controversy to hit the Missoulian since Bike Walk Bus week. We'll see if the 6.4 percent can make city council "feel the sting." Yawn.
  2. AARGH
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    AARGH - May 08, 2013 9:26 am
    Once again with the name calling. Time for you to grow up. You may be chronologically older, but your little fits are laughable. Your comment has very little to do with the subject of this story. I guarantee these ADUs will be "hoovervilles" within 10 years. And it's going to end up being a bunch of Non-Tax paying freeloaders who will turn the North End of town into the slums of Missoula.
  3. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - May 07, 2013 6:53 pm
    Once again Progressives bite the hand that feeds them, for all of you people living in single family zoned areas of town and voted for these progressives you are reaping the seed that you sowed no matter how inadvertent it may have been. Be aware of who you vote for in the future, don't just vote for the letter behind the name but vote for the person that grew up in your environment and wants to maintain that environment. People are a product of their environment.
  4. fastback7
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    fastback7 - May 07, 2013 4:51 pm
    Interesting to me (a liberal) that the majority of the current council does not realize that ADUs will end up hurting the community by increasing taxes, decreasing property values, increasing street congestion (which may increase traffic accidents and fatalities), and putting further strain on community services such as police, fire, hospitals, sewer, and public schools. I'm all for curbing needles community sprawl. However, the key word here is needless. Some sprawl is required for a growing community. If the council is so concerned about sprawl, perhaps they should start with building a highrise apartment building in the corner lot off of Stephens. You know, the area where the downtown Mustard Seed was. What a poor deal that turned out to be. Make it right, or get lost.

    By the way, thanks dad (an alderman) for fighting against this all of these years.
  5. 5GenerationMTN
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    5GenerationMTN - May 07, 2013 4:01 pm
    There appears to be an alarming trend in Missoula for elected officials to defy public opinion - as noted by "truelimegreen". I am baffled by the absolute disregard of prevailing community sentiment by those we have elected to be our voice. Aren't these supposed to be smart people? How can they not see the forest for the trees - rather the neighborhood for the dwellings.
    I have a small request for our city council: Please tour the neighborhood and have a visit with some of the lovely home owners of the lower Rattlesnake. Take note of the rental properties (you won't have to guess.) When you leave try and make a left turn onto Van Buren Street.
  6. ric
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    ric - May 07, 2013 3:54 pm
    The (Big) Sky is falling! It is the end of the world!
  7. JustUs4All
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    JustUs4All - May 07, 2013 3:40 pm
    Let the lawsuit begin! No one from the City has answered the question about HOW the owner occupied requirement will be enforced.

    What will happen when that ADU that is 10 ft away from them main residence catches on fire and the fire department can't get to the back because there is no ally?

    44 years of home ownership in single family neighborhoods -- what a waste of time and money taking care of those homes and neighborhoods.
  8. J555-5
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    J555-5 - May 07, 2013 2:38 pm
    Anything to add to the taxable value! Way to go Missoula!
    A little backyard house for your granny? Remember that old age is a temporary condition. Then who gets the backyard filler?
    Instant slums.
  9. chezi
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    chezi - May 07, 2013 10:38 am
    A great thought!!! It is good for potential home buyers..They can buy the home, rent it out to 4-5 sutents to pay the mortgage and live in a little home on the premises for nothing..Great selling point for the realtors
  10. chezi
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    chezi - May 07, 2013 10:26 am
    Just wondering where all the new tenants will be parking in the University district and other crowded areas..Even current tenants paying for parking on the street does not guarantee a place to park. I have heard many tenants complain they have no parking access already..The commuter system in Missoula needs much more improvement, much of the traffic comes from surrounding areas they do not ride bikes in and the bus system needs to be more user friendly to accomodate the 100 mile radius of traffic that accesses Missoula daily as well as more bus routes and more often..Sadly, sounds like another cart before the horse story for Missoula.
  11. BigTree
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    BigTree - May 07, 2013 8:21 am
    Sweet! Now I can move that trailer house I’ve always wanted into my backyard and rent it out to some UM students! (Think my neighbors on Laree Court will care?)
  12. Buzz Feedback
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    Buzz Feedback - May 07, 2013 8:20 am
    Watching the City attempt to enforce the landlord residency requirement should be good for a few laughs.
  13. montanamuralist
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    montanamuralist - May 07, 2013 8:02 am
    I live in the country and am I happy about that right now. Will be interesting to watch the inevitable lawsuit. Especially in a property rights state like Montana. I am laughing at the hypocrisy of the right wingers here. I know I have every pipeline in the world running through my property ( Yellowstone, natural gas, telecommunications etc, and they can come in and do anything they want here within the right of way. So I ask other far right commentators here...who are the "real": Stalinists? Oh and I do not get a cent of their profit as the state ( run by corporate but kissing Republicans) says it is for the public good. No, It is for the corporations good. So you right wing jerks have officials who are just as bad. As soon as I hear you being critical of them I will take you seriously.
  14. pl
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    pl - May 07, 2013 7:37 am
    Glad I don't live in Missoula! Kiss your property values goodbye and your new higher tax bill hello! What fun it will be for residents to go sit in their backyard and instead of finding peace and solitude will find ANOTHER neighbor.
  15. erlyirn
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    erlyirn - May 07, 2013 7:34 am
    Those that think this is such a good deal should take a drive around the 2300 block of Livingston and ask themselves if this is where they would live or want this in their neighborhood.
  16. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - May 07, 2013 6:37 am
    The city council members that voted for this travesty need to be removed asap. They care nothing for your opinions or your properties. They behave like Stalinists. They have just created instant slums in Missoula. How in the heck can this City prosper with these subversives running it?
  17. truelimegreen
    Report Abuse
    truelimegreen - May 07, 2013 6:28 am
    The cries against ADU's have been loud and clear, however, the city approved them. The cries against other projects such as the Broadway Diet were also loud and clear; again, the city approved them.

    The many people who spoke out against a sewer project were ignored as the city voted for it even though a supermajority signed their cards in opposition. The opponents of the project pointed out that the main reason the city was pushing for the project was to increase development not to protect water quality. Development increased immediately after the sewer expansion.

    Missoula citizens voicing their support for horseracing at the fair have been loud and clear. The county commissioners did not listen and now we have no horseracing at the fair this year even though in past years when there was horseracing revenues went up.

    In past years citizens, including parents, teachers, and students went before the school board and pleaded with MCPS Trustees not to close their schools. They stated that they moved to a neighborhood just so their children could attend a particular school. They stated that the student enrollment would increase again so that a closure was not in the best interests of the neighborhood or the district as other schools would then become too crowded. The school board did not listen. They also did not listen to a professional who works with demographics who stated that Missoula's neighborhoods were transitioning to young families and the grandchildren of the baby boomers would soon be school age. Millions of dollars have been spent after the closures on additions and modulars; even with these expensive additions and modulars our schools are now at capacity or near capacity. Will the Trustees do the right thing and reopen some or all of our closed neighborhood schools?

    At this time in Missoula’s history, our elected leaders have closed their ears to their constituent’s wishes. It appears we, the citizens, do not matter much to them. Liberty and representative government have taken a back seat in our city on all levels of our government.

  18. RPT
    Report Abuse
    RPT - May 07, 2013 5:57 am
    They neither way or need your opinion.
    Remember their vote when it's our turn to vote.
  19. hellgatenights
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    hellgatenights - May 07, 2013 12:34 am
    Naturally the city council is happy to help residents rent out their garage. The homeowners are hurting from years of escalating property taxes and with the new rentals, the poor slobs will again be reaccessed with a higher tax rate.

    How long.......will you be fools? How long......until you are living in your garage and renting out your house?

    Kiss a progressive today! (Warning ......make sure Mayor Big Brisket has wiped the barbeque sauce off of his chins before the big smooch).
  20. The_Boneshackler
    Report Abuse
    The_Boneshackler - May 06, 2013 11:56 pm
    May the lawsuits begin. This needs to go to ballot so that Council can experience the sting of defeat.
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