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Missoula City Council stockimage

Missoula City Council Chambers.

Zoning to allow for higher-density housing on the 4.7-acre property that's home to Blessed Trinity church and a community garden was approved Monday by the Missoula City Council.

Blessed Trinity plans to sell excess land at the 1475 Eaton St. property to a developer who, with the approval of the rezoning ordinance, will be able to build additional housing.

Nick Kaufman, a land-use planner with WGM Group who represented the church at the meeting, said the plan involves a combination of condominiums and apartments, with a total of about 40 units.

“The vision for the property is to provide housing for folks 55 and up, provide workforce housing,” Kaufman said.

The approval of the rezoning ordinance increases the density from a maximum of 16 dwelling units per acre to 43 dwelling units, and increases the total units permitted from 75 units to 205. It also increases the maximum allowable height from a maximum of 35 feet, to 45 feet.

Blessed Trinity church will continue to operate at the same location and relocate the community garden to another portion of the property. Kaufman said the developer will not build the maximum 205 units because the church will occupy more than 50% of the property.

Christina Ragsdale, who with her husband owns a house to the south of the property, said she understands the need for more housing near the core of the city, but added she was concerned about encroachment.​

“We're talking about single-family homes that are low, and a proposed three-story development looking down in our backyard,” she said. “Most of us have little or no fencing so there's not a lot of privacy there.”

Ragsdale said she would like to encourage developers to include landscaping or fencing to serve as a privacy buffer. 

She also cited pedestrian, bicycle and commuter traffic concerns, and said it can be difficult to turn out of their cul-de-sac onto 14th or Mount streets. 

“The intersection of Mount and Eaton gets tremendously backed up,” she said. 

City Planner Andrew Boughan said the number of units falls below the requirement for the city to conduct a traffic study, but said there will be right-of-way improvements to alleviate traffic.

Kaufman said WGM and Blessed Trinity plan to work with neighbors accommodate their concerns, and said they have involved the public in the process through meetings with the neighborhood council, a meeting at the church, public comment at the planning board meeting and a subsequent meeting with neighbors, in addition to mailers.

Boughan said at the meeting the plan promotes the city’s growth policy, which aims to increase density close to urban core in an area served by public roads, sewer, water and services like city police and fire.

Several council members spoke in support of the rezoning ordinance, citing the need for more housing.

“We have a growth rate of about 2.5% per year in Missoula County, which translates to roughly 1,800 people per year, or 850 units per year,” said Councilor Heather Harp, of Ward 3. “Forty gets us incrementally closer to that.”

Harp said she voted in favor of the ordinance because Missoula has been “woefully behind the curve when it comes to actually meeting and building those particular number of units” which she said has exacerbated the problem of affordable housing in Missoula.

Kaufman said he couldn’t comment on specifics of the pricing of the units, but said they are not planned as affordable housing units.

He said that the developer of the property will have to build a half-street median including a curb, gutter, sidewalk, boulevard and trees.

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