051912 alley apartments kw.jpg

Robert Kendall, a painter with SPS Painting, finishes a doorway in May 2012 on a small alley home off South Fifth Street. The Missoula City Council, which prohibited accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, in some neighborhoods three years ago, is considering an amendment to allow ADUs in all districts.

KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Mayor John Engen broke a tie Monday to send the draft cottage ordinance back to the Plat, Annexation and Zoning Committee.

This year, the Missoula City Council has been working on a controversial proposal to allow more small homes in neighborhoods, and the council on Monday took up a measure to forward the draft accessory dwelling unit regulation to the Planning Board for more review. Instead, Councilman Jon Wilkins, who opposes ADUs, asked for the item to go back to committee.

All councilors were present, and they split the vote, with Councilors Dave Strohmaier, Adam Hertz, Caitlin Copple, Dick Haines and Mike O'Herron pushing the matter back to committee along with Wilkins. The mayor broke the tie, saying he doesn’t want to see the council doing more difficult work at its regular Monday meetings, and he does want to see ideas more fully vetted in committee.

“I think you have a little more opportunity to discuss longer and get through it and bring a cleaner proposal the public can understand to the floor,” Engen said.

In a rare move, the mayor also encouraged Strohmaier and Copple to attend the PAZ meetings given their interest in the topic. Neither are members of the committee, but Strohmaier offered a detailed amendment at the meeting, and Copple considered doing so.

Missoula is growing, and residents are divided over the best ways to develop homes for people. Some see ADUs, such as backyard cottages and basement apartments, as one solution to increasing housing stock and creating more affordable options that aren’t sprawl. Others, though, fear ADUs will bring the destruction of neighborhood character and the proliferation of untended rental properties.

The proposal Councilor Bob Jaffe wanted to pursue would have allowed interior ADUs, such as basement apartments, by right; it would have allowed the detached units, such as backyard granny suites, with approval, which costs an estimated $1,660, according to the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants.

At the meeting, Strohmaier presented an alternative. He asked the council to move forward instead on a more tightly regulated ADU ordinance. It would require a rezone for a detached unit at a cost of an estimated $2,895, and it would require review and approval for an indoor unit, as well.

“I think this is a measured way to move forward that allows the opportunity for ADUs while at the same time addressing the concerns in the community,” Strohmaier said.

Councilors Ed Childers and Cynthia Wolken, though, said Strohmaier’s amendment was likely to lead to no additional homes in neighborhoods.

“I feel that it’s almost so costly and burdensome as to not be a choice,” Wolken said.

Jaffe, who chairs the PAZ committee, said he will take up the item at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, in City Council Chambers.

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

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