Missoula Building Industry Association Calls for More Sprawl

by jhwygirl

This information comes to us via Jordan Hess’ Discovering Transit in Missoula.

Jim Lieter, Community Affairs Director for the MBIA, sent out a letter calling on its apparently under-represented members (along with those other under-represented people like realtors and those in the business community) to “TURN OUT AS MANY BUSINESS PEOPLE AS WE CAN” (his caps, not mine) in order to halt the “Pie in the Sky approach to transportation and land use planning.”

His problem? He feels it is “very slanted towards bike/ped/bus/light rail interests and will be slanted away from growth issues related to both commercial and residential development.”

Missoula’s problem? That MBIA (I won’t go as far as to assume that he is speaking for everyone else) believes it should be as unencumbered as possible, as it has been, and infrastructure should bow only to those with cars.

I mean, suggesting a bias towards bike paths? Sidewalks? Mass transit? WT* is in this guy’s water?

Really – go read it.

And while you’re at it – don’t forget that there is an Envision Missoula meeting today from 3-5 at the South Ballroom at the University Center….and, hell be damned, why not ride the bus?!

  1. I understand why some people have a vested interest in maintaining sprawl, but to speak for some generalized “the business community” is pretty silly. There are solid business reasons for preferring a wide range of transportation options.

  2. I like how “working” is in quotes in Jim Lieter’s message. Hello, Jim? I work. I’m sure a lot of people who bike, ride the bus or walk on Missoula’s sidewalks work, too. Who the hell are you to assume it’s only trust fund college students attending UM who care about a city’s non-single vehicle infrastructure?

  3. JC

    Remember that the MBIA is a membership organization. It represents hundreds of local businesses. One good way to counteract Lieder’s message would be to lobby those businesses that are part of the association.


    By its nature, the MBIA is an issue based organization. Here are their “values” from their Mission Statement:

    * Serving as the voice of its members.
    * Influencing legislative and regulatory issues.
    * Providing a forum for the exchange of industry information, education and ideas.
    * Creating a positive business climate.
    * Promoting the value and quality of member products and services.
    * Giving back to the community, in which we live and do business.
    * Creating and supporting well-managed growth.
    * Promoting a positive image of our industry in the community.

    Given that BIA’s stem from a national and state organizational structure, they often carry the political overburden from a policy structure that isn’t always driven by their local membership.

    I’d encourage everyone who is concerned about the MBIA’s lobbying efforts to talk to their local member organizations, and have them present a more “local” and enlightened perspective to their staff’s efforts.

    Given the state of discourse over development issues in the valley, it would be good to work on the MBIA from the ground up, so as to have them present a more “Missoula” flavored approach to the issues. They will become a more potent and vocal player in the local scene as BIA’s are a growing movement, nationwide.

    gotta love those “quotes”

  4. Jim – Given the state of discourse over development issues in the valley, it would behoove MBIA to think more highly of planning efforts related to transportation and growth issues, instead of the hysterics that letter promulgates.

    Their approach is and has always been – as all lobbying efforts in this state, it seems – that he who carries the loudest biggest stick wins.

    I’m continually both enraged and amazed at how little it takes to get what you want, legislatively, at both the local level and state level. I should form my own lobbying LLC, register with the state and see where it takes me anyone who wants to come along.

    Anyone want to hire me?

    All of that being said – you are correct. I know a few people with that organization, and I think I’ll give them a call.

  5. Binky Griptight

    I know. Let’s talk to the MBIA about impact fees. That should be a good place for them to start thinking more highly of planning efforts related to transportation and growth issues. If builders had to pay upfront for the costs of sprawl, then they might not be as favorable towards it.

  6. Roger Millar commented on this email at the session this afternoon. It was actually pretty funny. He asked the audience for a show of hands, “how many of you work for a living?” Of course, hands went up. “Now, how many of you party all day long, spending money from your trust fund?” It seemed like the whole room was filled with those “workers” who were supposedly absent last time.

    Millar also said that the person who made these comments has admitted to him that they were a little off.

  7. It’s also worth noting that, at least tonight, there were very few college students in attendance. The largest age group in representation was 55-65.

  8. I’m heading over to Discovering Urbanism, Daniel…..I had planned on going today, but got up sick, so I’m really counting on your report!

    The pressure is on!


  9. I was going to go to the meeting today but I didn’t have enough quarters for the parking thingie.

  10. Hey, it’s a hassle to go all the way over to UM and deal with the parking there when you don’t have a parking sticker.

    If they’d had the second one at night I could have gone.

  11. There were two meetings, Carol. One last night, do allow for people that don’t have a car and rely on public transportation to attend – and a second, on Wednesday, from 6 to 8 p.m.

    Will all the criticism your side of the aisle has lobbed at the Mayor about transportation and transportation planning, you’d think your next Mayorial candidate Haines would have let his chief missoula blogger know about the meetings…and it’s not like it wasn’t in the papers. Or mentioned at the city council meeting. Or mentioned here. Or at newwest.

  12. Big Swede

    I’ve been observing your “hit pieces” on developers, realtors, builders, and related businesses for some time now. Every time I read posts like this, even though I live clear across the state, I can’t help but think that most of you would like Missola to remain stagnant or revert back in time when most of your cities streets remained vacant.

    Well, its not going to happen. In fact, increased costs brought on by more regulation, permits, enviromental studies, and other govermental intrusions only elevate the cost of building. Which in turn has two major effects. One is the type of home owner who buys the over priced home. The other is the renter. Increased costs of homes push up the cost of rent, something that I’m sure effects most of you here. How ironic, you may smile and think what a great job you’ve done by making developers jumps through all sorts of hoops and in the end your landlord says pay up or get out.

    If you don’t believe me look at Seattle’s plight. They’re saying that their “govermental costs” have increased a home by 200K. People still move in there and build, people with lots of money who replace middle and low income earners.

    Here’s the Seattle example.


  13. JC

    “I can’t help but think that most of you would like Missola to remain stagnant or revert back in time when most of your cities streets remained vacant.”

    How can anything jhwygirl or the rest of us have written in this blog entry be construed as wanting Missoula to remain stagnant or revert back in time?

    Thus the conservative blames the victim for the woes brought to the community by poor growth planning, lack of zoning, and greedy developers.

    Herein lies the start contrast between progressives and conservatives. Big Swede wants to harken back to the days when growth was largely unplanned, regulations weak or nonexistent, and building materials were relatively cheap.

    The days of Ward and June are gone. And those days left us here in Missoula with few sidewalks, poor road systems, awkward biking systems, and dwindling/expensive land for parks.

    And if those suspect 200k surcharges of today would have been assessed equitably up front when Seattle went through its huge growth spurt starting in the 60’s, and billed to developers and homebuyers, Seattle wouldn’t have to be playing catch up to provide a livable environment for its populace. Today’s buyers are paying for the last few decades worth of developers’ huge profits gained at the expense of providing livable neighborhoods.

    Nay, policies that Big Swede would revert us to are in fact the ones that have resulted in the need for huge costs to be assessed on us here in Missoula to retrofit homes with sidewalks and curbs, bring the infrastructure up to a level where it provides scant basic services, and put parks in neighborhoods within safe walking distance for our kids.

    But I guess all he really wants is the white picket fence.

  14. That’s a good point, Big Swede, but I think if people truly wanted to live in stagnant, vacant places where the living was cheaper and government was less intrusive, they’d move to eastern Montana.

  15. Big Swede

    JC, you need to revisit the title of this post. It states, “MBIA calls for more sprawl”. Wouldn’t just one more McMansion in the valley represent “more sprawl”?

    If we polled the group here, would they be for more more development here or aganist it, even though they installed a bike path besides their basement apartment?

    Lookit, I’ve never said I was for unplaned, 60’s era growth, but I’m aganist developers, realtors, builders and related agancies protrayed as the Anti-Christ, and worst of all a cash machine for all your pet projects.

    I really could care less about what happens on the other side of the state, I just wanted you guys to know the more you mess with Missola’s expansion, with new rules and regulation, the more the price goes up on houseing and squeezes out the little guy, forceing them to move my way.

  16. goof houlihan

    Here’s my take: these “gatherings” over represent the bikers, walkers, advocates of gridlock, and bus supporters. I’d call the latter “bus takers”, but almost always, they support buses for other people. Look up the trouble Mayor’s in other cities have gotten for supporting bus systems but…taking the limousine to the bus stop to “ride the bus”. High school students always advocate for bus systems, but tell me, with one available to them, do they ride it?

    Cars pay the gas tax, returned to support the road system. Drivers generally take for granted that their desires for less congestion will be heard. If not, they WILL be heard on election day. I have yet to hear advocates of bicycles ever offer to even have a licensing system, much less a tax on themselves to help pay for the bike lanes. They usually respond with some holier than thou morality nonsense. That won’t get bike lanes.

    People always turn out to beg that the cup be passed from them and that the other person be taxed, and controlled, so they can get what they want. Doesn’t really matter the left or right, either.

    Advocates of gridlock, and yes, there are many, contend that if we make it harder and harder to drive a car, then people will find alternate transportation. Usually, what happens is that people, industry, etc DO move. OUT.

    I don’t know that sending out a call for drivers, haulers, delivery truck owners, etc to come to these meetings is a bad thing, seems like a concerted effort to get them out, just as there invariably is among the “automobiles are evil” crowd. I’d think it’s important to make sure that goods and services can be delivered around town; to make sure that automobiles can access areas of commerce, can get downtown.

    Given the reaction here, you’d think “share the road” is only something cars should do. It isn’t.

  17. goof houlihan

    Yes, I know, “Mayor’s” should not be possessive. “Mayors”.

  18. Let’s hear what Missoulians themselves have to say about improving transportation in our fine neckothewoods:


  19. JC

    Big Swede,

    The title was obviously intended to spur some discussion on what the consequences of Leiter’s words implicate. Here is the rest of his phrase that the above quote was pulled:

    “WE NEED TO TURN OUT AS MANY BUSINESS PEOPLE AS WE CAN or this plan, which will be used to guide future transportation planning for our community, will be very slanted toward bike/ped/bus/light rail interests and will be slanted away from growth issues relating to both commercial and residential development”

    Leiter makes the (fallacious) connection that “slanting” transportation planning towards alternative modes works against both residential and commercial developers.

    While you may be from out east, where sprawl is not a concern, sprawl is a huge concern in Missoula, as we have a finite valley floor to populate and live in. Billings we are not.

    Leiter implies that alternative transportation modes and development are at odds. This just isn’t true. Those that advocate alternative transportation have just as much right to advance their cause, as does the developer who looks at the prospects of cheaper land and less regulation outside the city limits as attractive to growth.

    One just needs to look at the planning for 10,000+ homes and commercial in the Mullan Road/Reserve to Wye area to see this effect at work. This is sprawl at its worst.

    Much of Missoula has worked hard to combat sprawl with policies that encourage development more towards the core of the city. This just isn’t bikers, walkers and bus’ers pushing this movement. It has been mainstream in Missoula for a long time. It’s why we have such huge arguments over things like density bonuses and boundary realignments and units per acre.

    Most of Missoula has agreed that if we are to combat sprawl, then we need to provide an infrastructure (read alternative transportation modes) that meet the needs of a city that is focused on infill and redevelopment.

    Which brings me back around to the point that I was trying to make, which is that Leiter seems to be out of touch with much of what the businesses in the MBIA and their employees want to see re growth and transportation. Those people all have to live (or work) in Missoula, too.

  20. Big Swede

    I appreciate the background in your comment and while you may think we live in Cleaverland out east, our area is experiencing traffic conjestion along with our rapid growth. We have a bus system that no one rides and we have bike paths that are seldom used. I have relatives in Seattle and Denver and while they seem to have more bus riders and bikers they don’t seem to be the people that buy 400k homes in these new subdivisions.

    And there lies the rub. As an owner of developable property, you (meaning city folks and environmentally hyper concious) want to sponser, fund or approve systems of transportation that my suburban dwelers will never use.

    Leiters not out of touch, he’s representing his membership. Let me see, would a downtown business want a customer show up in a SUV with fold down seats or on a Schwinn Varisty?

    No wonder there’s urban flight, especially when your side wants everybody back on the reservation. You need to realize, for every action, there’s a reaction, and the actions of antidevelopment, coupled with high costs and regulations will only increase sprawl.

  21. Nobody has mentioned the impact of gas prices on all of this. Keep in mind that this is a long-range plan. Economic forces can change quite a bit in two decades.

    If oil stays about the same (with adjustments for inflation) it seems reasonable that Missoula could fit 200,000 people in low-density development and still function as an economy. Maybe not desirable for most of us, but that would be subjective. However, if gas prices rise noticeably in the next two decades (and assuming hybrid technology does not compensate fully) then Missoula could find itself stuck with a sprawling infrastructure that most of us can’t afford to live in.

  22. goof houlihan

    BTW, curb, gutter, boulevards with street trees, and sidewalk and, in the street, bus stops and bike lanes on new collectors and arterials, well, all that should just be required. Developer comes in, developer puts in.

    I hope that’s just required now, and the discussion is farther along than that.

    Daniel, sprawling infrastructure isn’t as big a boogieman to me. If all the doomsday scenarios play out, getting food to Missoula’s going to be a bigger problem than Missoulans driving to work.

    I go back to Pat Frank’s “Alas Babylon”, a look at 1950’s doomsday scenario. In his foreward, he mentions some one saying, when he talked of an atomic war, “what a depression that would cause”, and that one sentence prompted his book.

    Here, fifty years later, the idea that we’d “get stuck in sprawling infrastructure” way up here in the unsustainable northern rockies is laughable. Imagine the horror of a gasoline and natural gas-less inner city of any of america’s big cities. Talk about unsustainable.

    If it’s “the long emergency” a person longs for or fears, five acres in Arkansas or Western Kentucky with plenty of guns and grains is the way to go…and a still.

  23. Around these parts, goof, developers are always (it seems) asking for waivers to curb, gutter, and sidewalk. They either don’t want to do them or they want to eliminate the boulevard (just have sidewalks next to the street instead of that nice grass strip in between) or they want narrower sidewalks.

    That’s the kind of stuff that shouldn’t be debated. It’s a requirement, and yet one group always thinks it’s something that merits discussion.

    At the county level, it’s even more maddening, as those waivers are granted all the time.

  24. goof houlihan

    County standards = jumbo shrimp.

  25. This is late to the thread, but why not add it anyway ,..

    I don’t know if there will be any “peak oil” apocalypse or not. I hope not. But even if gas prices rise to the level that, say, Europe currently has, it will exert a different set of economic incentives on us, Speculating that folks will move out of town unless they can have their suburban experience is assuming a cheap-gas scenario will continue into the future. I can certainly imagine a scenario with more expensive gas that is still entirely manageable.

    Providing food for Missoula is an issue to think about. And it would be nice to have some farmland left in the valley to help with that.

    Even peak oil aside, there are good reasons to believe oil will go up. Exploding demand in India and China; a new (likely democratic) administration that will get serious about reducing carbon emissions, Economic forecasting is the bottom line of transportation planning in my opinion.

  26. I agree Daniel – it all comes down to money – and when big money starts to be affected by something, that’s when we can expect action.

    I don’t know if you watch television – but locally, on channel 67, the legislative Wildland Urban Interface subcommittee of the Wildfire Suppression committe has been meeting – the Wildland Urban Interface committee is charged with coming up with guidelines for regulations that will result in guidelines for counties to adopt into subdivision regulations or face picking up the bill for structure protection should a wildfire occur.

    All of that is being advocated and supported not by the masses, but by insurance companies, insurance underwriters, banks and mortgage companies.

    Until business realizes the benefits of good transportation planning, it will be an uphill battle, with naysayers pooh-poohing the bikers and pedestrian’s interests in favor of the almighty automobile.

  1. 1 It’s Easier to Get Out There and Protest Something Than to Work Through the Solution « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Haines, incidentally, announced his candidacy for Mayor on Monday night also. More on that, eventually….but remember you heard that here first, about 2 weeks ago. […]

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