by Pete Talbot

How do you control Missoula’s rampant growth?

You could try strict zoning and subdivision regulations. You could limit the number of building permits. You could tie growth to the city’s carrying capacity (water, sewer, roads, etc.).

But all that gets kind of messy, with lots of meetings and controversy, and it will take many years to accomplish.

My solution? Post the above picture on the Chamber of Commerce home page. Plaster this image on the cover of slick Montana Living-type magazines. Make sure it’s the lead photo for the City of Missoula’s website. Put in on the front page of all real estate brochures. You get my drift.

Substitute all those warm, fuzzy shots of Farmers Market, Riverfront Park, UM and the like with a nice Stage 1 air alert photo.

I guaranty that home prices will drop — affordable housing will no longer be an issue. Traffic on Reserve Street and Mullan Road will become a trickle. There’ll be fewer developers, contractors and realtors. You can say goodbye to those crowds at Out-to-Lunch and Missoula’s First Friday events.

Just a thought.

This photo of Missoula was taken from Waterworks Hill on Monday afternoon, August 13, 2007. 

  1. Mr. Natural

    “How do you control Missoula’s rampant growth?”

    Why would you want to?

  2. noodly appendage

    Wishing misery on other people isn’t all that laudable.

    It seems that you’re saying that all those realtors, developers, builders, carpenters, masons, plumbers, heating and cooling technicians, carpet salepeople and installers, loan officers, accountants, electricians and secretaries should lose their jobs and move out.

  3. petetalbot

    I see my veiled attempt at humor is missing the mark, again. I certainly don’t want to see those builders, masons, loan officers, etc., lose their jobs. My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek when I posted the above. I was poking fun at the unwieldy process of trying to manage growth, and also the slick marketing campaigns used to promote Missoula.

    That being said, I would definitely like to see a more sustained approach to growth in the valley. I’ve lived through too many boom-and-bust cycles in Montana. And during the bust cycle that will inevitably follow the rampant growth cycle, many plumbers, carpenters, electricians, et al,, will lose their jobs.

  4. noodly appendage

    A quick post. Yes, growth is hard to manage. So is shrinking–just ask eastern montana.

    I’d like to see a long deep breath (cough cough) and I’m hoping the housing bubble deflating like a whoopee cushion will bring that. That would give us all some time to put in much more progressive, geez I hate being the progressive here (my attempt at humor) design standards in line with what our community wants to be.

    Denser, taller, more walkable, but with more choices as well. And the commercial building standards should be tight against streets with back or side loaded tree covered parking, dark sky friendly, (lights off after midnight maybe), double fronted, etc. No boxes, big or small.

    I didn’t know there was a slick marketing campaign for Missoula. Now, I COULD say, it would take more than a slick marketing campaign to get me to move there…anyway, with a six percent growth rate, twice what a local govt is capable of dealing with, who needs to advertise?

  5. petetalbot

    Quick! CPR! My heart! Noodly and I agree on something. “Design standards… denser, taller, more walkable, but with more choices…dark sky friendly…no boxes big or small…” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I guess there are snowballs in hell.

  6. noodly appendage

    We ecumenical Pastafarians don’t believe in the eternal lake of fire roasted peppe and sun dried tomato sauce.

  7. Mr. Natural

    I get it now. This whole post is a satire on control freaks. I missed the humor in it because I’m not a control freak, and I don’t know any control freaks. So how could I know this was a joke?

  8. ochenski

    It’s happening.

    Whether Pete was posting with tongue in cheek or not, what he posited is actually happening. A long-time friend of mine in her 80s is selling off a chunk of land in the Bitterroot. It’s undeveloped 80 acres and she wants it to stay that way (or at least not be subdivided) and has had it on the market for a while now since most of the potential buyers want to bust it up and cover it with homes.

    Since the fires, however, even some of the people who were interested in it have let it drop. Apparently all the national press — with those smoke-filled skies and raging walls of flame — is making an impression out there that maybe, just maybe, that dream home in Montana may not be all that they hoped for. Gated communities, after all, just keep out the local Montanans, not the fires.

  9. Mr. Natural

    Mr. Ochenski—

    I hope you’re not proposing that we deliberately set fire to our forests in order to make Montana unappealing to developers. Or was that another one of those tongue-in-cheek comments?

    If not, then I suggest you contact our two senators, who have told the press today that global warming is causing all these fires. And they are determined to stop global warming. That would mean no more fires! The developers would overrun Montana!

    This could turn into a battle of control freaks, if you know what I mean…

  10. ochenski

    Not to worry, Mr. Natural — first, there was no suggestion of anything like that, just a comment that, in fact, the national press on our fires were having an effect on people looking at relocating to Montana.

    Second, I don’t think anyone will be needing to start any fires for a long time to come. When the forests are drier than kiln-dried lumber, they’re gonna burn every summer whether we like it or not.

    Plenty of tongues-in-cheeks around here these days, but maybe that’s gallows humor because the real situation is so grim there’s very little to laugh about.

    As for Max, well, he didn’t say global warming was responsible for the fires — as a matter of fact, he said, and I quote from the article by Jennifer McKee: “he needs to learn more before he could say without hesitation that global warming is driving Western wildfires.” Huh? What, exactly, does he need to learn?

    I say time to cut off the air conditioning in Congressional offices and let these guys get a taste of reality so they can “learn” what the rest of us are living with.

  11. Mr. Natural

    So Max doesn’t know if global warming is causing forest fires, but Jon knows, according to the same article. Weird. And they were standing right next to each other in the photograph. Maybe they should try putting their heads together.

    Since neither one of those guys are scientists, I might as well take a tongue-in-cheek whack at it: Forest fires are caused by an ignition source, such as a lightning bolt or a match.

    Moving on to air conditioning, I just bought my first unit. It sucks watts like crazy, but according to the government-required label on the back, the air conditioner is already set up to run on green electrons. Not sure if they will cost more than colorless electrons, but I really don’t care since I’m writing the whole thing off as a business expense. Hey, if my servers overheat, I’m out of business! The nice things is, it’s a portable air conditioner. So a guy could roll it from his tax-deductible office into his non-tax deductible bedroom at night, if it gets too hot in there. (Tongue in cheek.)

  12. As someone who grew up in the Bitterroot Valley and has seen what has become of it (due to uncontrolled growth), I can only hope that we have one of the winters like we had back in the mid 70’s. 50 below temps during the winter coupled with record highs in the summer (and the concurrent burning that follows) may just slow the flood to a trickle.

    And don’t fool yourself about the ad campaigns drawing people to Montana – specifically to the Bitterroot, Missoula and Kalispell area. I have seen the ads run in Washington and Oregon. They promise the best and downplay the worst.


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