The Missoula City Council approved changes to city law regarding people living out of recreational vehicles on city streets, which it says is only geared toward extreme cases that may make it to court.
At their Monday night meeting, the last of the year, the council unanimously approved the updated ordinance.
“The proposed changes are made necessary by very few individuals who refuse to comply with city laws,” Development Services Director Mike Haynes said. “It’s simply to ensure that if and when we go to court, our attorneys can rely on specific ordinance language as written.”
The updated ordinance purposefully doesn’t mandate any jail time for offenders, and lays only a $100 fine on noncompliant people. Haynes said the city only actively enforces the ordinance on a complaint-based system.
One 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.
“I hope that this can help in some very specific situations,” Ward 6 representative Marilyn Marler said. “I’m really sorry that it has come to this.”
Mayor John Engen announced at the beginning of the meeting that all council decisions regarding the annexation, zoning and proposed development of a piece of land in the Orchard Homes area would be put off until early January 2018.
That sent a group of neighbors, who’d shown up twice Monday to picket outside council chambers in protest of the development, home early.
Despite their best efforts, Bob Harkin, one of the neighbors of the proposed development, knew it may all come to naught.
“It’s going through,” Harkin said Monday afternoon.
The development would put 31 townhomes on about a single block off Grove Street, next to a street of single-family homes.
The picket was planned in response to the council’s “non-discussions,” where despite the outspoken neighbors, council members were close to approving the development before a notification error stopped the whole deal.
“It’s being crammed down our throats,” Harkin said.
Harkin set down his sign — No Grove St. townhomes, Yes to single family homes — to open up a manila folder filled with documents and photos.
He pointed out a rendering of the to-be-built block of townhomes and the inconsistencies being ignored by the city.
A strip of large trees separating the existing and new houses isn’t actually there, he said, pulling out his phone to show a photo of the empty lot, and there’s a missing street on the map, one that’s commonly used as a way into the neighborhood.
That street, Hamilton Way, is thin, not designed for heavy traffic, Harkin thought, though he uses it often and could see the potentially 60ish added cars using it as well.
The group of neighbors has a specific goal — to have single-family detached houses next to them, not the dual-unit townhomes.
And, despite Harkin’s view of the inevitable outcome, he hoped the six new City Council members sworn in Jan. 2 would give the proposal more thought and take the neighbors' protests into account.
“I would like them to take another look,” he said. “We’re OK with single-family homes. We’re fine with that.”