Neighbors of a Mullan Road hayfield set to be rezoned for housing development spoke out against the change at Monday night’s Missoula City Council meeting. Information presented by developers at the meeting quelled some of their concerns.
People living in houses and densely built condo units around the vacant field, located north of Mullan Road, east of Flynn Lane and west of the Hellgate Meadows subdivision, say they’re concerned about traffic and a lack of adequate parks.
But city officials and developers say as Missoula’s population grows, rezoning options need to be considered to increase housing stock.
The developers say though the zoning change would allow 48 dwelling units per acre, they are not planning to build anywhere near that density.
Nick Kaufman, a land-use planner with WGM Group, said the developers are mainly proposing duplexes, triplexes and bungalows. He spoke at the meeting about the effort he and the developers have made to try to inform locals about what they actually intend to do, rather than what they are legally allowed to do, which is what has neighbors concerned. He also said they have continuously incorporated community input.
He said the landowners are willing to sign an agreement with the city to ensure the area will be developed in the limited way they currently say they will.
Kathie Snodgrass, a Hellgate Meadows resident and member of the Captain John Mullan Neighborhood Council, said she was happy to hear of the agreement and the developers’ willingness to incorporate community input. However, she said the plan still needed work.
“In our little Hellgate Meadows neighborhood this really isn’t a NIMBY issue for us, because we already have density,” Snodgrass said. “I already have 1,000 units of apartments within a quarter mile of my house. That’s OK because they’re in the right place.”
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She said those apartments were closer to Reserve Street, while the proposed development was on the other side of her neighborhood from Reserve, making it too far for residents to walk to retail and other services, resulting in increased traffic. She also spoke about the lack of parks in the neighborhood.
In addition to the approximately 10 people who spoke at the meeting, roughly 100 neighbors have sent protest letters. About 60 of those live in a condo building nearby.
Many of the people who wrote letters said the area is already congested with traffic and were concerned the zoning change would reduce their property value.
Because so many people wrote in to protest, two-thirds of the City Council must approve the zoning change on Monday rather than a simple majority.
The Missoula County Consolidated Planning Board and the city's Land Use and Planning Committee have both approved the rezoning.
The council did not vote on the change, and will continue to accept public comment until the Oct. 7 council meeting.
The area on the western edge of Missoula near Mullan Road is rapidly changing. A new $16 million commercial plaza is planned nearby, and city and county officials are applying for a $23 million federal grant to help build infrastructure to accommodate a projected $160 million worth of growth in the area.