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Missoula City Council OKs zoning amendment in Sawmill District

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Missoula City Council approved an amendment this week that will allow for a wider range of uses such as office buildings for the street level in the Old Sawmill District.

Missoula City Council approved an amendment this week that will allow for a wider range of uses, such as office buildings, for the street level in the Old Sawmill District.

The amendment affects the Mill Site Special Zoning District, which includes Moose Creek Trail between Wyoming and Silver Parkway and along Silver Parkway between Moose Creek Trail and Big Timber Lane.

"The uses currently allowed in this area include restaurants/cafés, restaurants with cabaret license, taverns/nightclubs, retail trades, and sidewalk cafés. The applicant proposes this change to allow flexibility in this area to permit uses that are market-driven and economically viable while still facilitating the intended patterns of growth in the district," a city referral document said.

The amendment was supported by city staff and the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board. It was approved unanimously, 11-0, with one absence by the city council on Monday. The amendment fits within the city's growth policy and other relevant master plans in the area, city officials said.

The applicant and owner listed on city documents is Ed Wetherbee of the Millsite Revitalization Project LLC. There was some public comment against the project.

The property in the amendment is 46.57 acres. The amendment will allow for a wider use for development in the area.

"Planning Board members acknowledged that this amendment, being a minor change, appeared to be appropriate given that the district has already been established, and that additional allowed uses may be a positive for that area — for example, a daycare fronting the green space would be a positive use," a planning board document stated.

The property in the rezoning amendment was first subdivided in 2007, when it became a special zoning district. In 2013, the city council updated this district to be in compliance with Title 20 zoning standards, which govern the standards for buildings constructed in the city.

All city agencies that submitted comment on the amendment supported it.

“The proposed change to remove restrictions on allowable ground-floor uses is consistent with goals of increasing mixes of uses and creating walkable neighborhoods," Aaron Wilson, Missoula's infrastructure & mobility planning manager, wrote in a comment. "While care should be taken to consider appropriate mixes of different types of land use, the transportation benefits of having commercial and employment uses in close proximity to higher density residential is a key goal of the Long Range Transportation Plan for reduction of single-occupancy vehicles.

"The proposed changes will retain the benefits to the transportation system envisioned in the Sawmill District development."

Wilson did, however, note one issue regarding a nearby intersection.

"We would like to take this opportunity to point out that continued development within the Sawmill District is impacting traffic operations and safety at the Cregg Lane/Orange Street intersection. Installation of that signal was a condition of approval for the original subdivision, however we understand that it is proposed with future phases. As development and use continues to expand, consideration should be given to accelerating installation of the signal improvements." Wilson wrote.

Jordan Hansen covers news and local government for the Missoulian. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or send him an email at Jordan.Hansen@Missoulian.com

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