In the face of strong protest, the Missoula City Council voted late Monday to adopt an ordinance that would allow – upon approval and within guidelines – accessory dwelling units in all residential districts, a volatile subject.

“It seems to take a charge of dynamite to really get people involved,” said Councilman Ed Childers, who supported the measure.

The issue packed council chambers, and filled part of an adjacent conference room, where members of the public followed the meeting on television. By Councilman Jon Wilkins’ count, at least 12 people spoke in favor of the measure and 36 opposed it at the meeting that lasted until nearly midnight.

The vote was 6-4, with councilors Wilkins, Dave Strohmaier, Adam Hertz and Caitlin Copple voting no; councilors Cynthia Wolken and Dick Haines were absent. To take effect, the ordinance to allow accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, must be approved at its second and final reading on Monday, May 6.

The matter has been in the works for nearly a year, and some people accused the council of failing to listen to them along the way. Councilors who supported the measure, though, said they had adjusted the ordinance based on public comment; they were seeking reasoned arguments, not just counting the numbers of people pro or con; and they had election mandates.

“Just because you disagree does not mean that you’re not listening,” said Councilwoman Marilyn Marler.

In fact, Councilman Childers listened and heard problems – to which he believes the ordinance offers solutions. People don’t like the extra cars that come with additional rentals? Well, the ordinance puts in place a parking requirement for those who want to build an ADU, Childers said.

“By and large, people say owner-occupied housing is better for a neighborhood than rental housing. And this ordinance will require owner-occupied housing,” Childers said.

Some opponents accused councilors of pushing personal agendas rather than heeding the will of the people, but at least three of the council members backing the measure were elected with wide margins. Councilman Jason Wiener said ADUs were a campaign priority for him, he made it known and voters chose him with two-thirds of the vote.

“I have for a long time advocated that we liberalize the regulations on accessory dwelling units,” Wiener said. “I have a particular affinity for the ones that exist within the footprint of a building.”

That’s because Wiener himself lived in a basement apartment for years, and he paid just $325 for rent and utilities. The cost was affordable for him, and it supplemented the income of his landlady, an arrangement that offered them both dignity and quality of life, he said.


As preliminarily approved, the ordinance allows property owners who live in any residential district to add an interior or detached unit within guidelines. Some of the general requirements 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.

“This is the same level of scrutiny that we give to bars and power plants, among other things,” Wiener said.

The ordinance sets out standards such as maximum square footage and design features such as roof pitch and trim. It requires homeowners to register with the city annually and mandates one owner reside on the property in either the main home or accessory unit, although there’s a question about whether the city will be able to enforce that rule.

A protest petition drive is underway, and if successful, a supermajority of the council will need to vote yes to adopt the ordinance. A supermajority is two-thirds of those present and voting, said City Clerk Marty Rehbein.

Rehbein also said her office will continue to accept protest petitions until the last minute. Staff are doing data entry and analysis to determine whether the protest is sufficient to force the supermajority vote, but she doesn’t anticipate the review or ongoing results will be available before the May 6 council meeting.

“I don’t think we’re going to release a running total,” Rehbein said. “When we’re done ... we’ll present our final numbers.”

At the meeting Monday, one projection that both opponents and proponents made is that ADUs won’t suddenly pop up everywhere. Councilwoman Copple, who represents Ward 4 and opposed the ordinance, said the demand for them isn’t great in the Lewis and Clark neighborhood, where she lives.

Plus, Copple said, “I’m not convinced it’s a meaningful way to solve the affordable housing problem.”

Some proponents agreed the ordinance wouldn’t affect a large group of people. But, some said, it would make a big difference in a small number of people’s lives and their abilities to live in their own homes as they age, for instance.

At Development Services, Ana Aronofsky said members of the public have called with “very general requests for information,” but no one is standing in line to build an ADU.

“We have not heard anything like that, nobody that is waiting to apply for permits,” Aronofsky said.

Reach Keila Szpaller at @keilaszpaller, at or at (406) 523-5262.

Reporter for the Missoulian

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(19) comments


"Nobody says it like Bobby Lee"! Thats a jingle from thé Sarah Lee pies, for those who might not have understood. Yep, i completely agree with those words spoken! I understand that its two years later but that was one or thé only responses worth reading and Bobbylee nailed it! 'Nuff said.


To me this sounds like the typical Progressive/Liberal/Democrat. So you say you can’t afford to stay in your home because of poor planning??? Well we here in the progressive government are here to help. We always step in to take care of the people that don’t know how to properly plan for their future or the entitled group (students) that think the government should just give them everything without them working for it. IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD A SINGLE FAMILY HOUSE IN SINGLE FAMILY ZONED DISTRICT – DON’T BUY THE F’N HOUSE. If you need the supplemental income, buy a home in a multifamily district that will allow ADU’s.

Jason is touting his own personal horn in the meeting stating that he lived in the basement apartment and he campaigned on the premise of permitting ADU’s. In his cocky, self absorbed, hysterical rant, he also stated the he wan the election by getting 2/3 of the vote and this is his justification of wanting the ADU’s. Well I hate to break it to you Jason, only about a paltry 27% of ward 1 showed up to vote in that election (2,830 people voted out of 10,516 in the ward). With that being said, Jason only received 18% (1,907 people voted for him out of 10,516 in the ward). So Jason is basing his decision on the lowly 18% that voted for him. Here is a question, out of that 18%, how many actually want an ADU or are in favor of the ADU? If the results of Mr. Snively hold true, somewhere between 45-60% of the people surveyed in the districts are opposed to ADU’s. If 45-60% of the people in a single family neighborhood say NO, and on Jason’s platform he only got 18% approval, it would seem to me that neighborhoods are not for ADU’s. He should listen to his constituents. But if he did that he would have to give up his dream to pack-em and stack-em in Missoula. But just like every other liberal to grace us with their presence, they need to take from the haves’ and give it to the have-nots’ (if you can do it with a phone, you can do it with a house). That is the new REAL AMERICAN DREAM and I am so happy to be a part of it….


Jason Wiener shows how naive he is if he honestly believes voters go for someone because they agree with every single thing they espouse during the campaign. He chooses to ignore the better than 50 percent of folks who oppose ADUs in Missoula. On top of this, there is no guarantee that some of the things about the ordinance they've added to "improve" it will even be enforceable. I'll go back to what I said when this "discussion" started: to the current majority on our City Council public input is something they have to tolerate, but not take seriously. This was a done deal from the beginning. The changes they've made will do little if anything to solve the issues concerning the opposition.

Longhorn Fan

What would be the objection to a renovated two-car garage-- one that has been made into a nice SMALL apartment-- as long as there is off-street parking for all cars involved. I have seen one-- the occupant was a family member, an elderly lady who enjoyed living by her family (and that included her granddaughter). Some people enjoy their family-- and some people are lucky enough to have family.

Dick Summers


Congratulations, you are the last non polarized person in Msla.... refreshing.


I have already explained to you that a converted garage slab will not meet code! You either need a footer that is designed to hold the weight and a stem wall with the correct anchor bolts cast in the walls or the monoslab needs to be engineered and have thickened edges as well as thickened concrete beneath a bearing wall. Anything less than that is a hazard!


This article says, "A protest petition drive is underway..." Where do we go to sign????

John P Weber
John P Weber

Of course a realtor would love it, anyone knows most realtors oly watch out for their own interests only, though i know one who doesn't. Unless the city council members are willing to listen to the protestors on ADU'S and do more to take their feelings into consideration, and that does not mean by adding something that will be igored like ADU'S must be owner occupied then they still have their selective deafness! Got to hand it to weiner though, his people re-elected him knowing he supported these things. Having a rental in a basement is one thing, i myself have lived in em, but a seperate building that is small and on the same property is a totally different aniimal. And just where is the parking for these people going to come from? The city has for decades not provided enough parking for anyone anywhere in this city. One thing that should be added is that ADU'S can not be used as a small vacation home for people outside of the city limits or out of state, even if they are family of the current property owner who built the ADU. And that the owner of the ADU, no matter what, must be occuiped by the owner 12 months of the year, at least 28 days per month. I am personally oppsed to ADU'S because while increased density is sometimes a good thing, in our small city it is not good. Mainly because the city fails to keep up with infrastruture work that is needed now, such as more modern traffic signals.


Mr. Summers,

How exactly are Missoulians supposed "move where [they] don't have to worry about it" when housing prices outside of town average $500,000 and most "professional" jobs pay less than $15 an hour? Why not advocate for more affordable housing? Oh yeah, you're a real estate agent. Affordable housing wouldn't be in your best interest.

Dick Summers

Dang, you've seen me for what I am.

I do in fact plan on making millions dealing solely in properties with ADU's. With the profits I plan on moving out of town where I, myself won't need to worry about a neighbor building one. A nice fringe benefit is that according to my calculations, the initial influx of UN troops will be in Missoula City proper.

I stacked the city council with out of state leftists. After we blanket the city with ADU's we plan on increasing school funding and building more roundabouts.


Way ahead of you.. I've already been working on designs for the new communist roundabouts in secret backdoor deals with the soviets on city council. All businesses in Missoula county will be nationalized to pay for them, and I designed them a little differently: instead of a circle, they are all in the shape of a big red star.

I'm with you, sick of the inane rhetoric. And I'm specifically looking for a home with a rental in the back or in a neighborhood where I can build one (now that is everywhere. Yay!). You are right about the MLS: homes with those amenities sell fast.

I am still curious about what happens when an owner does have to leave and cannot sell the home, though - this will inevitably happen and I doubt the city can evict tenants in this case. That will be interesting.

Dick Summers

I support ADU's and applaud the council for having the grit to take the subject on.

As a Realtor I can tell you, there are many buyers wanting a home with a 'rental in back'. It gives people options. Additional income to offset a mortgage, a place to put visiting friends, in-laws, or aging parents. A look at the MLS will confirm that homes with rentals are a hot commodity. It's good to increase density where the infrastructure is already built out and close by. Don't want one? Don't build one. Don't like what your neighbor does? Move where you don't have to worry about it.

The detractor's comments can be cut and pasted into any of the 'hot' news stories comment sections. I thought wolves were an out of state conspiracy, but now I see ADU's are. Baucus and Obama are socialists who ramrod their agenda down the unwitting public's throat's... er wait Weiner is the socialist and the citizens of Missoula are the hapless minions. This is sure to be the last straw... everything was fine before this. The UN will be parachuting down on all opposed to ADU's.

Don't believe the spoiled child - loud and irrational- rhetoric of the hate/fear mongers on this or any other issue.


A realtor, eh? Bet you can just see the dollar signs for yourself in this ordinance.

You say, "Don't like what your neighbor does? Move ...." So according to you, after we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in our home which we SPECIFICALLY bought in a single-family neighborhood, we should just chuck it all and move.

Well, if we do move, I know one realtor I will not be hiring.


I beleive that these homeowner bought in these neighborhoods because of the zoning. They didn't want to live in a neighborhood with ADU's. The Mayor and the City Council need to listen to the individuals that live in these neighborhood.

wes d

Summers, it's not wise to mix business and politics. What the heck does Obama and Baucus have to do with this?! I'll specifically tell my friends looking to purchase a home to stay away from you.


Realtor, I am a young person looking to buy a family home in Ward 4 (south campus area). Contrary to your belief, the concept of ADUs actually makes me LESS likely to purchase a home b/c of potential drops in property value. I was told directly by a home appraiser that he anticipates home values to drop if ADUs are built near-by. Homes with rentals may be a hot commmodity for future landlords, but not for young families looking to make a long lasting investment.

You want to build an ADU behind your house? Sell your home and move to an area which allows it! Your suggestion that the majority of us "spoiled children" pack up and move to suit your fancy shows that you are the spoiled child, with no concept of reality.


Mr. Summers as a realtor (your claim) you should understand zoning and why people purchased housing in certain areas of town for the protections they want for themselves and their financial investment. You should also be aware there are areas in Missoula that multi family zoning already exist, this is the area set aside for your ADU's, this is where you can encourage people wanting to build ADU's or purchase land with the potential to build another unit or buy an existing setup. I see no need for people to try to rewrite history and ramrod new zoning down the throats of the people who already made the lifelong investments into their desired neighborhoods just to appease a few people who are intent on upsetting the applecart, and I even find it more despicable that a person that would be hired in good faith to find an individual or family a place to buy , set up shop and develop roots would then betray them in the future with your kind of nonsense and your desire to capitalize in on a few bucks, how shameful of you, your ethics and any company that would hire a person with your outlook.


Wiener is an absolute pillock. He's basing ADUs on his own very limited personal experience! That's about as pricelessly ignorant as anyone can possibly get in life. Taft also bases it on his own personal experience after a divorce, Again, priceless ignorance. Childers can't think for two minutes without getting his brian in a muddle -- listen to him sometime, even the other council members are routinely flummoxed by his inane rambling. Both Marler and Jaffe stand to benefit financially, so not much conflict there then. Apart from being crooked, of course.

Most half-brained politicians would usually take such an important decision under advisement, but this lot base such decisions -- that will literally adversely affect thousands of people -- on their own limited experience. You really couldn't make that level of incompetence up. Not one of these people have had much experience of anything in life except for coming to Missoula from somewhere they didn't like, and then determining that they didn't like it here either and now want to change it.

I would suggest people look into the success or failure of ADUs in different cities over the years to see exactly how successful they have been deemed. Because when introduced into towns with high student populations they have always -- every single time -- caused slum neighborhoods. In Seattle the university district spent years trying to fix the problem. Ask them. In London, city councils are now tearing them down because they got so bad.

I've lived in two cities that have introduced ADUs and never thought in a million years that they would be introduced in Montana. What has happened is that the single-family neighborhood, a place that just about every family ever dreams of living, has been removed from Missoula's landscape. So welcome to a North Korean slum town from now on. No choice for you any longer comrade. Here's the progression into the great socialist leveling:

1/. One neighbor on the block builds a large garden shed for someone to live in. Missoula likes to call them ADUs, but they're still just garden sheds to everyone else.

2/. The direct neighbor's property value immediately plummets because the view is obstructed and no one wants to live next to a large garden shed that has created parking problems, and with the future high possibility of attracting trash and noise problems from students who've only just left their mother's womb and have no idea how to even take out the trash -- look around, it's happening now!

3/. Since the neighbors no longer stand a chance of recouping their property value, they rent, worsening the situation, and move out of the city until a developer offers to buy their house in order to build more garden sheds for the poor hard done by students looking for 'cheap housing'.

4/. This has a knock-on effect to each other neighbor until the whole block eventually turns into rentals, with no one caring for each property because, as they see it, they were each forced from the homes they loved by incompetent city politicians, and one supremely selfish neighbor, and are now bitter from the experience, but enjoying life again paying less taxes away from he city -- in what Missoula calls 'bad' urban sprawl.

There's a reason housing is cheap; because no one cares anymore. There's a reason housing is expensive; increasing property taxes, permits, fees and, moreover, students forever whinging about better living conditions -- like the current dumb*ss ASUM. DUH! There's a reason housing is affordable: market prices. If it's not affordable to you, move, just like everyone has done for decades before now.

There's a reason people let their property decay: they get tired of city politicians running roughshod over them; and get tired of incompetent city engineers ruining their property, and get tired of paying ever increasing property taxes, fees, permits, etc..

People care for their property when they get left the hell alone. Left to live how they want to live -- within the parameters they each bought into (zoning) -- without a fat, ignorant, self-righteous, duffus like Wiener telling them how they're supposed to live. Because that's exactly what Missoula has come to: six ignorant politicians, with no experience in anything, pushing their views onto thousands.


The ignorance of the Missoula City Council members that are voting for ADU's is mind splitting, not one of these people even has the faintest idea of what they are doing, not one of them could make it in the construction trade, they have no idea of infrastructure demands being taxed, excessive fixture counts, the concept of parking is all but nonexistent in their little fantasy world, How will they be able to have the proper setbacks and keep vehicles out of the alleyways, what is going to happen to the visitors vehicles that obstruct the alleyway, how will firemen have to change their tactics in working a house fire, this will make it considerably more dangerous with added services like gas and electricity, a lack area to work a fire from, nothing good can ever come out of increasing the danger level to our men and women of public service. I can only imagine what kind of mushbrained ideas are yet to come.

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