Wake up, Missoula! Without telling you, the City Council has come up with yet another scheme to raise your taxes. Some council members are attempting to increase the density of Missoula by removing all impediments to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in ALL of Missoula’s neighborhoods. If they pass this regulation, anyone owning a home in Missoula would be able to build an ADU anywhere on their existing property with absolutely no protest or input from neighbors.
How does this affect your taxes? Additional buildings in neighborhoods that were not zoned for additional buildings will create “densification.” Densification creates additional cars, additional traffic, additional sidewalks, additional sewer and possibly additional schools. Existing infrastructure will have to be ripped out, new and costly infrastructure will have to be built. If this measure passes, you could wake up to constant and never-ending building in your quiet residential neighborhood. Densification, by definition, means “overcrowding.” In other cities that have “densified,” the overcrowded conditions have resulted in increased crime, which has resulted in a need for more police and fire personnel. Who do you think pays for the increase in city services and the new infrastructure and schools? You do, of course.
City Council’s justification for pushing ADUs on Missoula’s neighborhoods is that they will create affordable housing for elderly homeowners on fixed incomes or young couples who would have rental income to support the purchase. The reality is, if someone is living on a fixed income, they probably would not qualify for the construction loan in the first place. It is also unlikely that a young couple would be able to qualify for a loan based on “assumed” income from a rental.
Since the people for whom these ADUs are supposedly intended will most likely not be able to afford to buy them, these units would probably end up being rented or leased by an absentee property owner. The requirement that the owner of an ADU must occupy one unit is illegal and unenforceable. This could mean individuals could build an 800-square-foot house in the backyard just to sell to some property investor who most likely will not want to live in the neighborhoods ADUs will create.
ADUs that have been allowed in other cities have resulted in the destruction of neighborhoods. In the building trades, intentional overcrowding is referred to as infill, and just as we all think of infill as a reference to garbage, the result of this kind of infill to Missoula neighborhoods will have the effect of reducing those neighborhoods to garbage.
It would be tempting to speculate that this nefarious move by the City Council is simply an attempt to steer more people toward riding the bus, biking or walking. It is probably that and much more. Yes, allowing ADUs to clutter up Missoula neighborhoods will raise tax revenues for the administration (and we all know they need more of our money to pay for the baseball stadium and special-interest bailouts they are funding with our tax dollars), but the city has been diverting infrastructure funds for decades, so even with the tax dollars ADUs might bring into city coffers there would not be enough to cover the costs of upkeep or additional infrastructure. That’s where another increase in your taxes comes in.
Why you haven’t heard more about the issue of ADUs until now? That’s because whenever the City Council is trying to push through something they feel may not be supported by Missoula citizens, they do so under cloak of night and with as little communication to citizens as possible. In effect, the City Council is attempting is to rezone the city of Missoula without properly notifying you – as required by their policies. They are trying to get around notification by calling it a “text” change or, if that doesn’t work, they’ll just change city notification policies. In either case, they don’t want you to know what they’re doing because they don’t think you will support it.
You need to let them know how much you don’t like it. Contact the City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know how you feel about this proposed rezoning of Missoula.
Lyn Hellegaard is a former Missoula City Councilwoman.