Archive for March 11th, 2013

by jhwygirl

There is nothing that city council can do that will cause more permanent harm to any semblance of affordable housing in this valley than to approve their current rezoning of the whole city for ADU’s (Accessory Dwelling Units.)

Beyond that truth, the latest back-and-forth on this insane proposal is the question surrounding the city’s plan to require the owner of an ADU to live on premises. Questions have run the gamut of “Can the city even enforce this?” to “How would the city even enforce this?”

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller’s latest delves into this issue along with other very real possibilities that any reasonable entity should consider before writing something that they actually intend to enforce.

What I have said to myself over these questions the last two weeks – and this is when I really regret not having a Missoulian account with which to comment – is this: How or Could the city enforce this? They aren’t enforcing their current ordinances on ADU’s! Why would any presume that they would enforce this new everyone-can-have-one rule when they aren’t enforcing their current rules on dwelling units?

And isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest on the council for 2 or more city council people? Councilors who own and/or live in an illegal ADU?

The mere fact that their association with illegal ADU’s has been openly discussed in public meetings is proof enough of the intent of the city to enforce its owner-must-live-on-site rule. To think any different is really rather irrational.

I also can’t help but ponder the silence of affordable housing advocates. The idea that the city council is going to turn every square inch of this city into an “investment property” by doubling the density potential on single-family dwelling zoned neighborhoods is absolutely insane. Depending on the design standards they end up settling on, you can add 10-20% (at least) on top of the value of a lot in what is currently a single-family zoned area.

With a unit already built? Who knows what that’ll pull down. Oh – and you can bet that a potential ADU will be a selling point on those selling who haven’t built one yet. Add on a premium for that!

Will it be good for the city? Property values will increase because instead of buying a single family home, new buyers will be writing proforma’s to show the bank how the rental of an ADU will increase their income. This will increase the amount of property taxes collected. Is that good for the city? I guess it depends on how you look at it.

I am sitting back just shaking my head. But then again, I did that when the bailed out the ballpark. And the affordable housing project for a second time. And when they blessed the sale of our water. And when they seriously considered an Arts Center. And when they accepted an RFP from a developer who said they had to have a prime piece of real estate for free in order to make their proposal work.

Election season can’t come soon enough..

by lizard

Usually, when it comes to political rhetoric, creating jobs and supporting small businesses are touted as top priorities. Unfortunately, what politicians say is often at odds with what they actually do once in office. In today’s Missoulian, there is plenty of evidence that our state legislators are not immune.

Two years ago, instead of fixing the problems with medical cannabis, a legislative crusade to kill the burgeoning industry was launched, and with the help of sensationalist journalism, they succeeded.

Now, after 6 bills to amend the screw up have already been killed this year, there is a legislative long shot to fix what the 2011 legislature so tremendously screwed up—SB377.

The 2011 law was intended to make it harder for people to get medical marijuana cards and squeeze the profits out of the industry.

In June 2011, there were 30,000 medical marijuana carders in Montana and about 4,400 providers registered with the state to supply pot to cardholders. As of last month, the numbers had plummeted to about 7,500 cardholders and 300 providers.

“To me, what the bill comes down to is two things,” Wanzenried said Friday. “It provides a seed-to-sale tracking system to track all products, and it provides a remedy for many of these lawsuits.”

He said the law hasn’t proved workable.

“This is an issue that doesn’t go away,” Wanzenried said. “The litigation is costing taxpayers.“

What is it going to be, Montana state legislators? Will your moronic anti-business medical cannabis law get dealt with in a sensible manner, or will the courts have to continue stomping on the provisions that dictate through regulatory zeal (which conservatives are allegedly against) that providers can’t be financially compensated for their efforts, along with other stupid provisions crafted to destroy the medical cannabis industry?

While the fate of medical cannabis is up in the air, another industry is in the crosshairs: the craft brewing industry.

In his weekly column in today’s Missoulian, George Ochenski takes a look at how our legislators are trying to expand their anti-business attacks on local businesses by carrying out the will of the Montana Tavern Association, an issue I touched on in this post about the politics of beer.

Ochenski gets into the history of craft brewing in his column today, explaining how the regulations already in place are some of the most restrictive in the nation, yet despite those initial attempts to handcuff economic growth by our elected officials, the Montana Tavern Association wants to totally hobble its competition:

What’s giving the Tavern Association heartburn, if you believe its rap, is that bars and taverns have to purchase a liquor license to sell retail beer and hard liquor. These licenses are issued by the Montana Department of Revenue and are based on population so there are a limited number of licenses available and acquiring one can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Breweries must also be licensed, but are allowed to sell their beers on-site to the public without having to spend the money for a full liquor license.

This argument is not new. Indeed, for those who have been following the evolution of Montana’s craft brewing industry, these same arguments were used in the early and mid-’90s to stifle every attempt at providing a legal framework in which craft brewers could ply their art and practice their business.

But in the late ’90s, the Legislature finally realized that a new industry was knocking on its door, pleading to be allowed to do nothing more than work hard, produce a saleable and sought-after product, and bring their local communities the opportunity to enjoy that product on the premises where it was made.

Yet, in finally giving its approval to craft brewing, the Legislature put some of the most restrictive measures in the nation on what, when and how our breweries and their taprooms can operate. For instance, no person may be served more than 48 ounces of beer per day and taprooms may only serve beer between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. And unlike bars and taverns, the license to run a brewery does not come with an associated right to operate lucrative video gaming machines that produce tens of thousands of dollars per year per machine in revenues.

In spite of these harsh regulatory restrictions, Montana’s craft brewing industry has thrived. Indeed, it is a model of the qualities we value in Montana. Enthusiastic entrepreneurs take the risks to start breweries, invest significantly in the equipment and facilities necessary to brew great beer, offer their products to the general public and have found a willing and grateful customer base that truly appreciates the quality and variety of their local brews.

From its tiny start, Montana’s craft brewing industry has grown to a $50 million a year industry in a mere 15 years and Montana now ranks second in the nation in craft breweries per capita. They range from our largest cities to tiny places like Wibaux and Philipsburg, where locals love their brews.

Now, however, the big and ugly foot of the Montana Tavern Association is trying to stomp the breweries back into the barley dust from which they came. The bill has yet to be introduced, but the unofficial draft copy of the measure requested by Rep. Roger Hagen, R-Great Falls, LC1429, is outlandish.

Since our state only engages in its legislative efforts every two years, it’s incredibly important for our legislators to make the most of their time in Helena.

But instead of crafting the legislation we Montanans need and deserve, there has been entirely too much time wasted on embarrassing legislation that quickly becomes fodder for national media outlets to ridicule.

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