The Missoula City Council approved plans to annex land for Summit Beverage’s new warehouse facility, instituted permanent cold-weather emergency homeless shelter rules, and increased stormwater rates at its last meeting of the year.
Also on the agenda was the controversial Fourth Street condo development, though the council did not reach the two associated items before the Missoulian's print deadline. There will be an updated story online, as well as in print Wednesday, on the rezoning and right-of-way vacation decision that would be necessary for the development.
The council made permanent new rules governing emergency winter weather shelters, a change spurred by a harried response last winter to house people at risk of freezing to death on the streets.
The change allows religious groups to host winter warming shelters without going through the city’s full conditional-use permitting process.
After a longstanding warming shelter closed, the Salvation Army on Russell Street was eventually able to host people who didn’t make it into the Poverello Center’s nightly capacity limit. The city council passed a temporary version of the new rules earlier this fall, and has allowed the Salvation Army, in coordination with the Poverello Center, to again host a warming shelter for Poverello Center overflow.
The temporary ordinance allowed shelters to be opened in time for winter weather while the city council went through its full legal process to institute the permanent ordinance.
The council also passed increased stormwater management fee rates to keep up with federal water quality standards and maintenance. With the increase, residential properties would pay $4.21 per month, as opposed to the current monthly rate of about 75 cents.
Commercial properties could see a wide array of increases depending on the specific type of property. One example included in a presentation from consultants hired to help set rates was that of an average sized car dealership, which would pay $516 a year, rather than $23 per year, under the proposed rate increase.
The stormwater utility, created in 2016 to maintain federal Clean Water Act standards and Missoula’s water quality, manages the runoff from rain that collects into rivers and groundwater, with much of it being funneled into the aquifer, and the associated infrastructure.
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The funds will also help to maintain the city's levee system, which protects the city from the Clark Fork River when it floods, and helps keep flood insurance rates low for homeowners.
When the utility was created, temporary rates were set at $9 per year for all residential properties and $23 per year for commercial properties.
Dennis Bowman, the city’s deputy public works director and supervisor of the water utility, said the initial rates were set low to begin with while the city assessed how to form standard rates and what work would need to be done.
Bowman said there was significant maintenance needed for storm drains and other infrastructure.
The new proposed rates would include a flat fee plus a calculated fee based on hundreds of different specific property types.
The new flat base fee works out to $48 per year for all properties. The calculated additional rates vary widely, with single-family homes working out to an additional $2.53, for a monthly total bill of $4.21.
In the year before creating the stormwater utility, Missoula spent only a fraction — $192,998 — of what the other six largest cities in Montana pay for controlling the pollutants that enter public waterways through stormwater runoff. For example, Great Falls spent more than $2 million, and Kalispell spent over $1.8 million.
The city also annexed land on West Broadway, where Mary Jane Boulevard is scheduled to be extended to, which will host a new $31 million Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic as well as a new Summit Beverage warehouse facility.
Summit Beverage brought the request, which comes with a zoning change to the parcel, that would allow the distributor to build a new warehouse, allowing Costco to expand into Summit’s current location.