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Hillview Crossing development

An artist's rendition from 2018 of the proposed Hillview Crossing townhouse development.

More than 200 residents in Missoula’s South Hills recently signed a petition urging the City Council to vote against allowing Hillview Crossing developers to build 68 townhomes on a steep hillside above the Wapikiya neighborhood. Opponents include every property owner adjacent to the proposed development.

Perched like a fortress on the hill, this dense development would be completely out of character with the surrounding area. The 26-acre parcel is now surrounded on three sides by 49 acres (four parcels) of undeveloped land, as well as dedicated open space. Taken as a whole, this area is dominated by single-family homes.

In a square mile encompassing Hillview Crossing, there are 532 homes in contrast to only 46 condos, 20 townhomes and 14 apartments. The area still retains some of its rural character, sweeping vistas and wildlife. If this development is approved, much of the parcel would be stripped of its topsoil and reshaped by bulldozers.

The only entry and exit to the development would be a steep, narrow quarter-mile road off of Hillview Way (8% grade, 21 feet wide with no turnouts).  Imagine being in line at 8 a.m. on that steep road in the winter, trying to turn left onto Hillview Way. Or imagine driving down Hillview Way at 35 mph on icy pavement when a string of cars pulls out in front of you. Now add to that a proposed crosswalk with a lighted beacon. You get the picture. An accident waiting to happen.

Also, uphill traffic will have to slow down or stop for cars and people, making it hard to maintain traction on snow and ice. A month ago, when we had an ice storm, a car lost its grip on the road, causing a backup of 30 to 40 cars.

The City Council is responsible for ensuring public safety and well-being when approving developments. Usually it’s not such a complex task. But construction on slopes of up to 25% makes review and approval complicated. Engineers have come up with draconian measures to try to protect 14 residences and Wapikia Park below this development from storm water and soil erosion. They plan to build a water retention vault measuring 120 feet long by 20 feet wide and 7.5 feet deep near the bottom of the hill. The Wilma is only 103 feet tall, so just imagine that turned on its side. That alone should demonstrate how extreme this project is.

This proposal has been on the city’s docket for a year because it is complex and very risky. Plus, its maintenance would be left to a homeowners association. Also, the developers are determined to maximize the number of townhomes (in the $300,000 range), even if it means narrow road widths. Last month, the city fire marshal put his foot down, calling Hillview Crossing’s current design a “life safety hazard” for occupants, due to a lack of two access roads. Developers must either install in-home sprinklers or agree to 35-foot roads. This remains unresolved.

Council members have already established five criteria for evaluating conditional use requests. A development cannot have a significant adverse impact on the general welfare of the neighborhood or community, including traffic safety. And it must be compatible with the character of the surrounding area.

Given those criteria, City Council should say "no" to Hillview Crossing developers. We urge you to attend the City Council Meeting at 7 p.m. tonight, Monday, Nov. 25, at 140 W. Pine. Council members are interested in public input, so please stand with us, and ask them to vote "no" and send this plan back to the drawing board. Thank you!

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This opinion is signed by Teresa C. Jacobs, Jan Brocci and Michael Williams, Don and Karen Henrikson, Richard and Lucy Zientek, Tyler Stosich and Kelli Walsh, Joseph W. Gorsh and Barbara W. Gorsh, and Jeff Stevens. 

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