Archive for the ‘City planning’ Category


In the debate over finding a new home for Missoula’s Poverello Center, much of the community’s attention has been captured by concerns of simply moving the homeless “problem” into a different area of town and how any spill-over may affect people’s children and home value rather than how a new and modern facility can improve the quality of life for not only homeless people and families but for the community as a whole.

The NIMBYs have taken over the asylum and seem reluctant to give back the keys.  Many people who comment on this topic think that the best solution would be to simply move the Pov to the edge of town, preferably adjacent to the interstate, to allow the homeless to keep moving on once they have visited the Pov and to more the “problem” outside of downtown away from view and out of people’s minds.

Dallas has found a different solution – one that involves providing a new standard of best-practices – by providing  services that aim to get people off the streets and back into housing and steady employment. The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center, operated by a local Dallas non-profit, has received international recognition for its innovative approach to packaging transitional services together in a single facility.  The Bridge is located on the edge of downtown Dallas where it easily accessible to not only the homeless, but well situated to create lasting community partnerships that can have a profound affect on the success of transitional services.  Successful enough that in a three-year period The Bridge has transitioned 982 people in permanent housing and placed 1,588 into jobs.

Also since the opening of The Bridge in 2008, “chronic homeless has been reduced by 57%… the local crime rate has reduced by more than 20%,” while  The Bridge has  saved the City of Dallas $3 million dollars in emergency services costs.  That, to me, seem like a well placed investment of community resources.  Missoula isn’t Dallas when it comes to the amount of resources we have to spend, but one of the strengths of our community is that we like to punch above our weight class.

As long as the conversation is focused simply on the future location of the Pov we aren’t getting to the heart of what this debate should be about… what is best for Missoula and what will bring the most benefits to our community.  The Dallas model looks to be a better option than trying to hide the problem away in some undesirable corner of Missoula.


The Montana GOP loves them some freedom, but only when its smothered in their own special GOP brand of Freedom Sauce. While they push issues such as setting up local militias, giving sheriffs ultimate local law enforcement authority, giving healthcare providers freedom to deny services to patients because of differing morals, and expanding individual gun rights including no longer needing a permit to carry a concealed weapon; on many other issues currently up for debate in Helena the GOP is proving that they want to curtail local decision-making and even the role that individual citizens play in politics and policy making.

Perhaps the biggest GOP attack on individual freedoms in Montana is the GOP’s push to override voter initiates and weaken the voter initiative process in the future. If Montana voters had passed initiatives banning abortion or abolishing the state’s DEQ I’m sure conservatives would be praising the Montana citizenry’s grounded and well thought out votes. But as it stands our current crop of Tea Party clowns are trying to circumvent our rights as Montana citizens. Numerous proposed bills target our ability to have a say in our own state.

  • HB 161 aims to reverse the voter’s will in legalizing medical marijuana
  • SB 204 would double the number of signatures required for a voter initiative to make it onto the ballot
  • HB 292 aims to modify our state constitution, taking away our right to a “clean and healthful environment.”
  • HB 280 and SB 176 both restrict in some way a women’s right to choose
  • HB 392 aims to redefine Montana citizenship, excluding many that are currently citizens
  • They killed a proposal to switch to a mail in ballot system which would have greatly increased voter turnout
  • SB 116 aims to take away a person’s right to decide how to end their own life.
  • HB 198 expands eminent domain powers to the benefit of large corporations over Montana landowners
  • SB 209 takes away a city/county’s discretion in deciding what factors should be considered when approving a subdivision
  • SB 228 would prohibit the state from setting up insurance exchanges
  • HB 431 would remove the day of state general elections from the list of recognized state holidays, making it more difficult for people to vote.

So the GOP loves individual freedom and choice and advocates for legal authority to be vested in institutions that are closest to the citizenry… except when people or local governments make the wrong choices… in that case it seems the GOPers don’t want us to have the freedom to choose our own path.


Want less of this?

Are YOU a CYCLIST or PEDESTRIAN that uses Missoula’s many TRIALS, SIDEWALKS, OR BIKE LANES?  Do you care anything about new sidewalk construction, expanding Missoula’s excellent trails system, or getting more bike lanes stripped around town? If so then your chance to contribute to building a brighter future for Missoula active transportation is fast approaching.  The Transportation Planning  office within OPG needs volunteers to help conduct a non-motorized traffic count on Saturday, September 11th and Tuesday, September 14th.   Sign up to volunteer here, or visit their website for more information.  In addition to the count days a volunteer training will occur on September 9th starting at 5:30 in City Council Chambers and last an hour.

Why are these counts important?  Just as with counting vehicle traffic, counting pedestrians and cyclists helps to determine demand for better on-street and off-street facilities, potential help steer funding of various infrastructure improvements, and helps the county to potential win grants for construction projects or programs.  And if your interested in seeing some of the results from the spring count click here to view a map that breaks down the numbers counted in May.

by @CarFreeStpdty

As construction on the three block stretch of North Higgins grinds towards completion the final character the street will assume is slowly coming into view.  The question is… “will this ultimately create a safer environment for everyone and help to promote business downtown?”  I sure hope so…  I personally think this is a great project, one that is much needed along this stretch of Higgins with the ever increasing popularity of the Farmer’s Markets.  Saturday mornings in downtown are becoming almost unbearable with the number of people frequenting the Saturday Markets… maybe City Council should outlaw those ridiculously huge baby strollers to help alleviate foot traffic… I would hate to see the carnage caused by a three stroller pile-up.

Anyway, foot traffic downtown has certainly increased to the point where giving over more space along this stretch of road makes sense.  A decade ago the Farmer’s Market was respectable, but I would venture to guess that visitors have increased by a factor of three or four over the last decade… especially with the success of the Clark Fork Market.

The North Higgins Streetscape is well ahead of schedule thanks to economic stimulus money.  Originally the idea of downtown business owners and the BID, and first proposed in Greater Downtown Master Plan, the project is meant to create a more inviting, calm, and safe urban environment for pedestrians and cyclists along this often congested downtown corridor… encouraging people to spend more time – and thus money – downtown.

Pedestrians have already had ample opportunity to test out and benefit from the extra real-estate given over to them as the series of bulb-outs have been finished for some time.

While the curb-extensions work well at creating a safe pedestrian environment, at this moment I’m skeptical of the other half of the project… the new, integrated cycle-tracks seen below (in their unfinished state).

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

You all might remember that back in May, Missoula County Transportation Planning Division conducted a non-motorized traffic count.

These counts help with all sorts of things – from planning, to providing raw data for any number of grants that reduce the need for tax money for things like sidewalks and bike paths.

This years county is planned for September. They need more volunteers. The shifts are short – 2 hours, and they need people for 2 days – a Saturday and a Tuesday. Here’s the announce:

Help Us Count!

The Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will be conducting a second round of non-motorized traffic counts on:

Saturday, September 11, from noon to 2 p.m.


Tuesday, September 14, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

We are going to be counting bicycle riders, pedestrians and all other forms of human-powered travel at different street and trail intersections throughout Missoula.

Non-motorized traffic counts will help us understand where, when and how much our trails, sidewalks and bike facilities are used and what our needs are for enhancing or improving our non-motorized system.

Thanks to a large number of volunteers, the Missoula MPO conducted non-motorized traffic counts last May. To see the results of the May counts and to learn more about the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project please visit:

To sign up or volunteer, please call 258-4989
or sign up on the website at

If you can help, give ’em a call or sign up on the website. A good count, does, afterall, take good planning.


Missoula is a fine city… a city I’m proud to call home because of its culture, people, neighborhoods, beer, scenery, architecture, etc.  I am one of those many thousands of people that are not “native” but were attracted here over the last three decades because of how great the Missoula lifestyle is and after nearly a decade of living here I feel like this is my hometown.  And so I hope you can understand my frustration when Missoula is derided as the basket case of Montana.

The argument heard over and over again from various people goes something like this; “Bottom line, the problem is Missoula is run and heavily populated by Liberals*,” originally from the evil, socialist, and morally corrupt state of California. Those damn hippies hate anyone who dares to try and start a business and, “are vocally anti corporate*”.  All these transplants are ruining Missoula for the Missoula natives; outsiders add to congestion, low wages, a bad job market, unaffordable housing, and worse government.  If only local government would get out of my bathroom, stop preventing me from getting from point A to B with all this traffic calming bullshit, and stop telling me how I can advertise my business Missoula would be a great place and Smurfit-Stone never would have pulled out.

I’ll attempt to address and dissect these complaints in an ongoing series about Missoula and will argue that Missoula’s liberal culture is perhaps its greatest asset and that many of Missoula’s weaknesses are in fact geographical in nature rather than political or cultural.

Lets start with the claim that liberalism is destroying Missoula economically.  Its perfectly true that Missoula is a transformed town from the mill-town it once was 30 or 40 years ago, but what western town or city hasn’t seen radical shifts in their economies?  Resource extraction, manufacturing, and the associated supporting infrastructure and jobs have seen major declines since the late seventies all across the country.  This isn’t because of liberals but because of capitalism… markets have been opened up and such industries are now mainly based in low wage countries in Asia.

So all you haters don’t blame liberals… blame other nations full of people working harder at lower wage rates… if only they would unionize we might get our jobs back.  The conservative blame game pointed at Missoula’s liberals comes out of frustration with change and an unknown future.  They see change all around them from the subdivision swallowing up farm fields and the mill jobs disappearing to the bike lanes going in all over town and they don’t understand where all this change has come from or where it will lead… so they lash out at the closest thing, local liberals.

Despite Missoula’s transformation and loss of old economy employment the town hasn’t been hit terribly hard economically through most of the last 40 years… in fact Missoula has experienced a higher rate of job growth than conservative leaning and business friendly Billings.  According to The Bureau of Business and Economic Research’s Montana Regional Economic Analysis Project Missoula experienced job growth of 216% from 1969-2008 while Billings job growth was 168% and Montana and National growth was a slower rate of 118% and 99% respectfully.  Average employment growth in Missoula beat Billings every decade since the seventies and thats with Billing’s boom in the oil and natural gas service industry.  Even in the current economic climate Missoula’s job losses have been less than those experienced in the early 80s, about 2.5% compared with about 9%.  Income growth has also outpaced Billings, with Missoula experiencing total personal income increase over the same time period by 318% as compared to Billings (273%), Montana (204%), and the Nation (228%) as a whole.  Not bad Missoula!

It is exactly because of Missoula’s more liberal and open culture combined with its recreational opportunities and lifestyle that has attracted such growth and not tax rebates and large corporations.  Economists Thomas Power and Richard Barret make a great case for the “New West” economy in their book Post-Cowboy Economies.   Their argument is that faltering industrial economies have opened up the west for new economic opportunities based not on resource extraction but on environmental quality, in-migration, recreation/tourism, and knowledge based services (finance, engineering, medical services, etc).  The old western economy and the new western economy were both mutually exclusive, unable to exist simultaneously within the same geographic space.  This new economy is bringing along more prosperity, wider ranging economic development, and booming growth as evidenced by the fact that the Mountain West was the fastest growing region in the 90s and aughts.

This “New West” economy has produced huge gains for Missoula.  Between 2001-2007 Missoula County saw net employment growth of 10,632, or 15%, with growth being the greatest in the professional and technical services (27%), healthcare (13%), arts/entertainment/recreation (44%), education (38%), real estate (70%), administration (41%), and finance (10%).  During that same time Missoula County’s poulation increased from 97,400 to 107,552, or 10.4%.

So yes… Missoula has experienced an amazing amount of change in the last several decades fueled mostly by in-migration and shifting employment and industrial sector growth.  Its utter poppycock that Missoula has a lousy economy even given the current situation.  Missoula has been a leader in many fields and has developed first class educational and healthcare services for our region that not only attract people to Missoula but also act as the area’s largest employers.

The recent closing of the last remaining mills in the area and the loss of Macy’s might play heavily within the communal psychology of Missoula but are largely beyond the control of locals.  While the loss of over 400 Stone Container jobs is a big loss and affects many families its a sign of strength and diversity that such a loss makes such a small dent in total employment.  Such local events are part of the process of resetting the economic playing field to allow capital to be freed from unprofitable economic pursuits.  New opportunities that are net yet in sight will come to occupy these vacant spaces.  We aren’t experiencing anything different from anywhere else in the country and are in far better shape than similar communities in the Detroit area or Phoenix suburbs.

So all you haters… get over the hate and embrace the closest liberal you can find and lets work together to bring Missoula into the future as a strong regional leader… otherwise suck on Missoula’s barm.

*Quotes from various local online comment sections

by Pete Talbot

After a pitcher of Badlander IPA, the mayor and the planners relaxed, and then gave a concise and passionate argument for the Missoula Zoning Rewrite.

The title of the event sucked me in: “Everybody Must Get Zoned.” But it turned out to be a straight-forward look at the zoning process and policy, and what Missoula could be in the future.

Missoula’s zoning laws, except for some tweaking here-and-there, are 30-to-50-years-old — based on an Ozzie and Harriet family model. The demographics in Missoula, however, have changed.  Now, 22 percent are single family, and then there’s the rest of us (mixed families, singles, empty-nesters, students, retired) but we’re still zoned like it’s the 1950’s.

OPG Director Roger Millar and senior planner Mike Barton were with the mayor at the invitation of Forward Montana. It was informal, about 35 people at the Badlander: politicos, seniors, organizers, students and folks like me.

Mayor Engen reminded everyone that it’s been a two-year, open-to-the-public, process. All points of view are in play and there are no deal breakers. Millar spoke to the history of zoning — laws that basically said ‘no’ to how we develop instead of ‘yes’ to what we’d like to see. Barton talked about specifics and how the rewrites would make laws clearer.

All three speakers have been around the block, understand Missoula, and have a vision for what’s going to sustain and enhance our community.

To hear the critics, the proposed zoning changes would have a radical impact on our neighborhoods. What I heard seemed pretty mild to me: minor changes in lot size and density calculations and height allowance, etc.; maybe some B&B’s, and accessory dwelling units here-and-there. The kind of things forward-looking cities have been doing for awhile.

I didn’t take my notebook, again, so I’m paraphrasing at best. I needed to get out of the house, have a beverage and catch up on local stuff, so this was a good diversion on a late March, wintry evening. I’m glad I went and was encouraged by what I heard.

Please folks, get involved. Here’s the info, and if you can’t make it to a planning meeting or talk to your ward representative or go to a PAZ committee meeting, at least you can comment. This is an opportunity to shape the future of Missoula.

by Pete Talbot

Since it’s the holidays and all, I thought I should play nice. But then, silly me, I surfed some conservative blog sites. They’re coming to the defense of poor Jane “let’s throw a wrench in the works” Rectenwald.

Ms. Rectenwald has been in the news lately, alleging that the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants Director Roger Millar, “upended democracy and threatened to throw her out of meetings.”

This came on the heels of a prepared speech she gave at a planning workshop – a workshop that wasn’t supposed to be a venue for prepared speeches. You can read her complaint and her speech here. The speech is so full of inaccuracies and venom that it boggles the mind.

I don’t know Mr. Millar but I’ve heard he’s an agreeable fellow who’s open to input from the community. To quote Mayor Engen, “Roger Millar is the last person I can think of who would try to stifle public comment, democracy or participation.”

I don’t know Rectenwald that well, either, although I did observe her a couple of times at City-Government Review Board meetings, where she served on the board. It seemed like she was doing her best to derail what was supposed to be a consensus-driven process.

Anyway, Rob Natelson over at Electric City Blog has a post entitled, “Petty Tyranny in Missoula” (subtle, huh?). He has this to say:

“… the citizens present were divided up into “teams.” They were told to confer among themselves and then have a team representative tell everyone else ”two good things and two bad things” about the proposed re-zoning plan. The idea, apparently, was to force people to say something good about the plan, so that could be reported later as a show of public support.”

Hey, Rob – I guess this would “force people” to say something bad about the plan, too.

Then he continues with U.S. Supreme Court/Bill of Rights rhetoric, adding, “it flatly violates the First Amendment for any government official to force a citizen to state views the citizen doesn’t believe.”

So, Rob, were they water boarding the citizens? Electrodes on their privates?

Rob goes on to state that, “a city official told her (Rectenwald) never to attend a Missoula public hearing again!” which is just plain untrue.

And Rob teaches law at UM. Scary.

Carol over at Missoulapolis picked up the beat:

“This is what is so nauseating. Instead of having straightup meetings with each comer allowed his or her say – as in the Miller Creek EIS process, for example – they have to do these “workshops” to foster the illusion of public participation and consensus. It’s a game, and you could say that Jane does not play well with others. And that’s why we like her so much here at Missoulapolis.”

Let’s see … “illusion of public participation,” “it’s a game,” “nauseating.” Tell us how you really feel, Carol. Perhaps let’s not have any public participation and just ram zoning rewrites through the council. Then let’s watch the right-wingers come unglued. They’re never happy

Rectenwald is a spokeswoman for what I call the “dumb growthers.” You know, the folks that favor sprawl and are against infill and affordable housing. They get the most fired up when those pesky university students try to find places to live close to the university.

Rectenwald is not helping the process of revisiting Missoula’s zoning ordinances — and it’s an important process. Nor is she helping her own cause. Way to go, Jane.

by Jason Wiener

Since early this year, in an effort to keep Missoula’s downtown the center of life in our city, a coalition of private and public entities have been working with consultants Crandall Arambula to develop a Greater Downtown Master Plan. The next step is tonight.

In March, Crandall Arambula came to town to ask Missoulians about their concerns about and aspirations for downtown. 160 people showed up and responded.

In June, Crandall Arambula came back to town with ideas about addressing those concerns and meeting those aspirations. 250 people showed up and responded.

Tonight, Wednesday, September 3, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park, 200 S. Pattee St., Crandall Arambula returns to show a draft set of recommendations addressing retail, transportation, open space, arts & culture, housing and more—taken together their ideas could constitute a blueprint for the future of downtown if adopted by the City Council following this and one more session for public input into the plan as well as the public deliberation that goes with any City Council decision (planning board, public hearing, etc.).

The most effective input is the earliest, however, so come tonight, learn about the work that’s been done so far (even if it’s your first meeting) and have your say.

Greater Downtown Master Plan Public Workshop #3
Wednesday, September 3 (TONIGHT)
6:30 – 9 p.m.
Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park, 200 S. Pattee St.

Visit for more information. Thanks for your continued interest and participation up to this point.

by Pete Talbot

I often refer readers to Bob Jaffe’s (Ward 3) excellent city government list serve/blog. It gives you the news from city council committees, where most of the work gets done.

Well, Bob is out of town, so Jason Weiner (Ward 1) is doing the writing this week. Jason has more of a conversational style, which I enjoy. Lots of nuggets of info — from parks to planning to budgets.

Jason offers some insights into how the conservative element on council deals with issues when they’re in the majority which, thank god, isn’t often. He also gives an update on the Higgins-Hill-Beckwith roundabout and asks for input from the list serve’s readers. As of this writing, eight respondents are in favor of constructing the roundabout ASAP and two are for postponing.  You have to subscribe to the list serve if you want to view comments.

So, if you’re interested in city government, a subscription is a must.  I wish the county provided the same sort of service.

by jhwgirl

A coalition of neighborhoods, along with a grant by the Office of Neighborhoods coalition of neighborhoods, along with a grant by the Office of Neighborhoods is helping fund a visit by Eben Fodor, author of Better, Not Bigger: How To Take Control of Urban Growth and Improve Your Community tonight in the community room at the Missoula Children’s Theater. This is a review of his book.

The talk begins at 7 p.m.

Fodor will be discussing urban growth and community planning, in a discussion designed to help facilitate discussion with the city’s transportation and growth study, Envision Missoula, the Urban Fringe Development Area project (UFDA) (blogged about here), the Downtown Master Plan, and the two-year rewrite of zoning and subdivision regulations.

Here’s another of a dozen or more opportunities to participate in a discussion, to hear an expert, and to help inform yourself on planning issues from an expert who sees the kinds of things that we face here in Missoula in places all over the U.S. – a guy who might be able to provide us with some insight as to what has been successful in other places, and what things may have not been so successful.

It always amazes me how Missoulian’s seem to reinvent the wheel – and I’m not saying that we should be a version of some other fabulous place (like Seattle or Portland or Tacoma or Bozeman) – but it sure is smart, if you ask me, to inform yourself on how it is done in other places. Doesn’t it?

by jhwygirl

Ann Mary Dussault, County Administrator and former County Commissioner, was asked by Missoulian reporter Keilla Szpaller, for a story covering the numerous bonds and levy requests coming before the voters in the November election, about the regional 911 center:

“It’s way too early for us to be telling the public what the project is and how much it will cost,” Dussault said.

Really? Are you that unorganized for a multi-million dollar request for a multi-million dollar building? What, did the architects have free reign?

She said the project was in the hands of architects. When asked about a timeline, Dussault said she would no longer share timelines with the Missoulian because the county only gets “s–” for it. She then refused to answer further questions and said information must come from commissioners instead.

Did she just say SHIT?

Tsk, tsk, tsk, Ms. Dussault. That really is no way to treat neither the press nor the public that reads it.

You’d think she’d know better, no?

On the other hand, Ms. Dussault isn’t exactly known for her tact.

Gotta give Keilla Spzaller credit here – reporting on all the news that’s fit to print – and apparently more, as it were. The public deserves to know the full story.

It does paint a more accurate picture of Missoula County’s approach to public involvement.

Of course, I’ve blogged about the county’s approach on public involvement before. This post contains two tales (two for one bonus, readers!)

In Ann Mary’s defense, though, she probably doesn’t want to torpedo the proposal by having too much get out about it ahead of its time.

It might get too ripe.

That’s because my friends inside the courthouse tell me that Ann Mary’s plan is to move all departments- Licensing, Titles, Elections, Clerk & Recorder, Surveyor’s – even the Board of County Commissioner’s Office (did I get them all?) – all to the new 911 center proposed for a location off of North Reserve.

Yep, that’s right – move the seat of the county, the heart of the city, to North Reserve.

Missoula is one of Montana’s original 5 counties. From the Canadian border to Dillon, from the Idaho border to Georgetown lake, Missoula County was it all in 1864. And since that time (and even before, really), the heart of it all has been down in what is currently the heart of the city.

Dussault, apparently believes that the new heart of the county is out somewhere on Reserve Street.

A real visionary, huh?

All of this 911 center talk was kicked off by the need for the courtrooms and judge’s offices to expand. Also in the mix is the lack of parking for county employees. Some are upset that they have to walk the block and half from the lot over near St. Patrick’s Hospital.

Yep – those county employees can’t stand to hoof it 600 feet. And those judges need to have the entire courthouse, apparently. But even in the discussion that has been had, they won’t be needing all of it immediately – but sometimes in the next 40 years or so.

Business owners downtown, too, have heard the rumblings. Trouble is, Dussault has yet to accept an invite to a meeting of the Missoula Downtown Association to discuss the issue.

Maybe it’s time to get some input from the citizens that have to use the county adminstrative offices? Isn’t that, like, everyone?

by jhwygirl

The Mayor’s Community Discussion of Housing meeting was held this past Thursday. City Council chambers were packed with a wide variety of members of the community with varying views – from Councilman Dick Haines and University curmudgeon Lee Clemensen to Andrea Davis of the Missoula Housing Authority and local developer Perry Ashby.

It would have been nice to see a County Commissioner there (I didn’t notice any of them) – but Dennis Daneke, candidate for Larry Andersons seat (appointed after Barbara Evans retired), which is up for this next election, was there. Also present was State Representative Ron Erickson, of House District 97.

For whatever reason, the Missoulian failed to cover it.

The format was pretty free-form – the Mayor first showed a 20 minute documentary outlining the issue and then introduced four people from his housing initiative panel – Chad Nicholson, a firefighter for the City of Missoula; Rachael Bemis, a mortgage loan officer with Missoula Federal Credit Union; Perry Ashby, local developer of several subdivisions and sometimes business-partner with Westmont Builders; and Nancy Harte, Missoula Office of Planning & Grants administrator for the city’s HUD funding – and then went on to hand the microphone around the standing-room only (with overflow out into the hall) for the next 2+ hours.

There were opinions and thoughts and questions from all ends of the issue. Here are a few:

Dennis Danequeth, president of the local carpenter’s union posed this question (apologies if I’ve gotten the spelling wrong): I admit don’t know much about economics. If there is so much of a demand, how come the market isn’t supplying it? We should first let the market address the issue. Perhaps there are some obstacles in the way. Perhaps we should look at the regulations and give the market a chance.

Councilman Jon Wilkins: Perhaps my biggest disappointment was to find that our program with FHA could only fund one homebuyer with the federal money we got. We can fight this fabulous war that we are fighting but we can’t fight this war at home. I think it’s important that we keep the character of the neighborhoods. I have 2 kids – one is going to be a Doctor, and he probably won’t be coming back to Missoula…the other is probably going to be a social worker and she probably won’t be able to afford a home in Missoula. I might be able to give her my home or something, I don’t know. I don’t know what we are going to do, but more help is going to be important.

Steve Loken, of Loken Builders, who has received awards for his remodels that use recycle-and-reuse methods and newer energy saving technologies: We can build affordable housing, but we can’t find affordable land. We have to pay for good help – there are a whole bunch of factors involved. The city requires all kinds of things – setbacks, roads, sewer, building code. I remodel a whole lot of homes that were built by people who lived in them. Very few of us do that today. Builders like me have to look for qualified builders. We have to pay $12 – $14 – $17 – $18 per hour and if we don’t pay them that much, they’ll go elsewhere. Builders are caught between needing qualified builders and having to pay them a living wage. Land is the problem. I have a new formula – people need to participate in the building of their home. Cooperative Housing is a tool – clustering, changing zoning for infill – we have to be dense and we have to grow vertically. We can do this with good design. Operate efficiently. Limit the amount of equity in a housing cooperative. All over the mid-west, NYC, cooperatives are becoming the way. With these kinds of projects we can have affordable housing.

Doug Grimm (apologies, again, if I’ve gotten the spelling wrong), who identified himself as having lived in Montana “practically all his life” told a story of having lived in Greenwich Village paying $200/month for rent and sharing the place with 2 other guys. He had neighbors that paid $25/month for rent and he couldn’t believe it. Doug went on to explain how NYC had enacted rent control and what a horrible mistake it was. “The market should work it out,” he said. “If I came to Missoula,” he said, “and I was looking for a place to live, my next choice would be to go to Deerlodge. Deerlodge is pretty cheap. It could be the next Missoula. If we sent enough people to Deerlodge it could be come fabulous as Deerlodge. Do you realize that you can move to Jamestown New York and buy a nice house for $18,000 -$30,000? You could also move to Erie Pennsylvania and buy a home and work at Burger King!”

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

I’m confused, but fiddlesticks, the zoning rewrite has been underway and whether it was unveiled at the Planning Board meeting last night or whether it is unveiled tomorrow night (as the press release indicates – March 6th) is probably moot. Right?

Maybe its the 4 days of Dayquil/Nyquil…..

A report is written, and will be presented in a public meeting tomorrow night, 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers. Duncan Associates has been retained to guide the process and project leader Kirk Bishop will present the findings and recommendations that have been compiled after “six months of intensive public participation and information gathering and two subsequent months of research and analysis.”

The report is really detailed – lots of good stuff, with comparisons of the current zoning document alongside with recommendations for the rewritten version. Tables, illustrations – all the kinds of things that you see in more modern, user-friendly regulatory documents. You really should take a look at it – because if you don’t understand it, the new document won’t be worth a damned. And that’s the current situation we’ve got – and unruly document that is damned near insane to have to understand and make logic of. Contradictions abound – and interpretations are necessary for just about ever facet of the thing.

Danger, danger: Interpretations, interpretations.

It’s a document that everyone – even the lay person – should be able to read and understand. Think of it as Missoula’s Handbook. You’ll be able to understand a whole lot about your neighborhood’s current development and development potential by reading that zoning book and knowing your zoning.

An Advisory Group has been compiled – it’s a pretty diverse group. Some seem to have their own personal agendas….read through that list and see if you can spot them. Test to follow.

There’s a great bunch of information off of the main zoningmissoula website, with a list of all of the groups that they have met with and the meetings that have been held. The rewrite is long in coming and sorely needed….while the About page gives more information, the first two paragraphs sum it up well:

Through the leadership of Mayor John Engen and the Missoula City Council, the Zoning and Subdivision Regulations Update project was initiated by the Office of Planning and Grants. Why? Because the existing development rulebook is woefully out-of-date, maybe even downright broken. It is difficult to use, administer and implement consistently. Those who deal with the zoning ordinance—whether daily or infrequently—lament its sometimes crude, often unpredictable and mostly incomprehensible nature. And perhaps most important, the existing regulations often fail to produce the results Missoulians desire with any degree of certainty.

These observed shortcomings are not surprising. The last comprehensive overhaul of city’s zoning ordinance occurred in 1972 and many of the ordinance’s provisions date to 1932, when zoning was first adopted in the city. Yet despite near universal frustration with the existing regulatory system, previous efforts to update it have fallen short.…at least partly because of inadequate community input and involvement. Successful completion this time around will require and be founded on true community collaboration.

1972? 1932? Are you kidding me?!

“Woefully”? I’d say that might be a bit of an understatement.

The report isn’t the actual document – that will be brought forward later.

There is a public workshop schedule for April 2nd.

by jhwygirl

Monday night’s pragmatic city council meeting brought us not only the vote which canned any discussion towards putting a $9 million tax levy on the next ballot – which, after I heard the discussion, I found myself in agreement – but also the unveiling of a mini-documentary on affordable housing by Mayor John Engen.

I find myself writing the rest of this from memory as I didn’t TiVo the meeting like I sometimes do. Sure as hell wish I did now. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. So if I say anything inaccurate below, blame it on old age. Or the alcohol.

Produced by MCAT, along with Planning Director Rogar Millar and OPG’s Mike Barton, it profiled the face of affordable housing – which is your neighbors and fireman and policemen and clerks and nurses and engineers and working professionals and service people. It oulined the problems that many businesses face in recruiting employees. It interviewed people like developer Collin Bangs, WGM head and every subdivision developer’s favorite Nick Kaufman, and a young couple that had to buy in Stevensville to find something affordable.

That couple now drives Hwy 93 daily to work here in Missoula, along with, literally, 1000’s of other Ravalli County residents. Can’t blame that on Ravalli – hell, they’re supporting our workforce, our economy!

Ravalli has been our affordable housing – but that is changing quickly, isn’t it?

While it didn’t include a lot of statistics or facts and figures (a small failure, IMO) – it is certain to be brought out in future discussion. It did include an interview with a mortgage lender who told how a household making $54,000/year could only afford a home that costs no more than $156,000. That $54,000 figure happens to be the median income of a family of 4.

There aren’t a lot of homes on the market for $156,000. Decent quality homes that don’t need tons of work and new water heaters and furnaces and foundation work, etc. The market simply doesn’t address the enormous need that is there.

First time home buyers, depending on their loan, have to purchase a home that passes that first time homebuyers inspection. Most don’t.

The mini-documentary also articulated the economic impact that the lack of affordable housing has on the valley – with one interviewee asking “Is Missoula missing out on economic growth?”

The production was revealing even to Dick Haines, who said it gave him something to think about.

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.

Engen announced the first community meeting of the housing discussion for March 13th – again, if my memory is off, hopefully he or Ed or any one of our other wonderful councilpeople will kick in here.

We’ve written pretty damned frequently on affordable housing here at 4and20blackbirds, and if you want to review some of our thoughts, please hit the “affordable housing” tag over to the left, under Categories.

With all that being said, when people start dissing on the discussion (which has yet to be had!) and start pointing to the recession as a solution to an essential workforce affordable housing issue that has hovered over this valley for at least 10 years now – ask them why they find it so hard to work through the discussion – to wait and hear the community speak. Ask them why they are embracing a recession as a solution. And then ask them to participate.

That’s about all my brain cells stored that can be at least semi-accurately reported. John Engen and the rest of the community that worked on that production deserve a huge big THANKS for starting that discussion.

Personally, I can’t thank them enough.

by jhwygirl

Tomorrow night, City Council will take the steps towards moving forward with very early plans for a new regional park at Fort Missoula. The consideration for tomorrow night is approval of $90,000 for design development which would provide cost estimation and a phasing plan for 25 acres of what may eventually be an 82 acre park. The plans would include a sports complex, picnic area, historic interpretations, trails, native and formal gardens and numerous other amenities. Many of this is outlined in the 2002 Fort Missoula site plan adopted by City Council.

With Missoula’s exploding growth, a regional destination park at Fort Missoula is an excellent idea. Soccer and baseball fields are crowded – and analysis shows that of all major Montana cities, Missoula has the least number of athletic fields per capita. Missoula provides less than half of the recommended athletic fields per capita as recommended.

I have friends who bring their children here for soccer games and soccer tournaments from all over Montana – fields are crowded, parking and traffic flow is poor. Last summer, her daughter’s team bus was struck by a vehicle in a crowded exit of the fields up the Rattlesnake. Any parent could tell you that could be traumatic – especially when your child is 120 miles from home.

Our parks generate revenue for this area – families come and stay in hotel rooms, they eat dinner in our restaurants, and then there is the obligatory shopping spree at the mall or Costco or wherever…all businesses that employ Missoulians.

What is clear is that to plan something like this, it is going to take some cash. We’ve done the master plan, and now Parks & Rec is asking for some cash to plan and project costs. A properly done regional destination park can’t be simply thrown together. You all know the saying – you’ve got to spend money to make money.

A park at Fort Missoula is a great idea. Let’s hope that council can come together on this an realize that it is a summary of many things – quality of life, investment in the community that is lacking what so many other communities have across the state, and investment in economic viability. It’s a good thing for many – not just the kids, but local businesses.

I’ll go further here and suggest that instead of bemoaning the fact that the historic buildings at the County Fairgrounds need saved, move them down there with Fort Missoula. There’s 92 acres – and the county even owns land down there too. The fairgrounds used to be way out of town – but they are now surrounded by commercial development. There’s little room for parking when the fair is actually in town – and the real estate would serve a far more valuable service as affordable housing if paired and planned as a housing trust.

And let’s not forget that not just people making 80% and less than the median need affordable housing. The working people – police, fire, nurses, small business – everyone – needs affordable housing. Frankly, I’m tired of all this focus on providing grant monies to those at 80% and less….there’s a hell of a lot of people out there struggling.

I see I’ve digressed to rant.

With that being said, I’ll add one more: Why is the bond that is being considered only for city residents? With a regional park, it seems to me that there are going to be people from all over the county using it. Kids from (at the very least) Frenchtown, Lolo and Clinton would be playing soccer on those fields. Rugby, baseball, and football players from all over. Little Griz….

If there’s going to be a bond, I suggest that the whole county chip in. Not only does that spread out the costs – it probably gets it done faster.

by jhwygirl

KPAX reported tonight that the recent Envision Missoula transportation planning meetings suffered a glitch in the nifty hand-held computer devices which collected data from the participants at the Wednesday evening session.

Because of that glich – the consultant’s computer crashed, loosing the collected data – Mike Kress, Senior Transportation Planner, said that another meeting will be held to do exactly what they were trying to do – which is collect information from Missoula’s citizens on their thoughts of how the area’s transportation system should tackle our transportation and growth needs in the future.

{sigh} I know those planners have worked very hard at doing their best to make the community aware of its meetings and of gathering as much community and public input into the planning process. If only all of our planning processes were as diligently transparent.

Kress said he expected the meetings to be held in 2 to 3 weeks.

by jhwygirl

Boy I screwed this one up – I had scheduled this post to be done on the Thursday before the meetings, but I put it in March instead of February. So this is a late notice, and I apologize….

Envision Missoula will be holding meetings tomorrow and Thursday to bring Missoula its results of the long-range transportation workshops it held back in November.

Tomorrow’s (Wednesday’s) meeting is from 6 p.m to 8 p.m., and Thursday’s is from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Both meetings are at the 3rd floor Ballroom South of the University Center at UM.

If you need more information, you can contact the Office of Planning & Grants Transportation planners at 258-4989.

Don’t miss these meetings folks – transportation is on the tops of everyone’s mind these days, it seems – Councilman Dick Haines seems to be all about transportation planning these days – I’m sure he’ll be very involved in these meetings, given the deep interest he’s shown at the last two week’s city council meetings. Mayor Engen spent a significant amount of time addressing and updating council and the public on transportation issues last night also.

For some good primer reading on Missoula’s transportation issues, I highly recommend Daniel Nairn’s Discovering Urbanism and Jordan Hess’s Discovering Transit in Missoula websites. The are both chock full with musings and theories on transportation issues, and must-read websites for anyone following civic matters in Missoula.

by jhwygirl

Bob Jaffee’s listserv made mention the other day of the city council’s desire to possibly have a presentation put together that would help them better understand the economics of subdivision and development in Missoula.

How much money are these guys really making? When they tell us a particular variance is needed to make the project pencil we really don’t know when they are BSing us. It would be nice to organize a meeting with some builders and developers and planners to help give us some perspective.

Now, aside from wondering why or how much the profit of a developer should factor into any particular decision made by the city council or the planning board or the Board of Adjustment, etc., I got stuck on the “meeting with some builders and developers and planners” part.

Aren’t these the guys whining? (I’m assuming that the “planners” he speaks of are from the private sector.)

If council wants to get a full picture of the economics of development here in Missoula, perhaps looking at all those involved and contributing to the development process from the beginning might get them a better more complete picture. First there’s the realtor who sold the land to the buyer. Then there’s those planners, developers, surveyors and buildings. Then there’s the realtor that sells the finished product, and then there’s the mortgage lender.

In fact, the mortgage lender I spoke with a few weeks ago had quite an insight into the development and subdivision activity in Missoula – after all, they not only finance the purchase of the land, they finance the purchase of the houses that were built on the land that they financed.

OR, another option might be to sit down with HomeWORD or someone from the Housing Authority. They buy land at market rates, they hire planners, surveyors, builders, and then they sell the finished product. Obviously, they utilize some subsidized funding for the sale – but talking to those agencies that buy the land, pay the bill, and then sell might get City Council a bigger, better picture of development and subdivision in Missoula.

I’m a cynic, I know, but wouldn’t talking to all of those people also get a more honest picture then just getting the picture from developers, planners and builders who are, rightfully, trying to make as much money as possible?

by Ed Childers

Affordable housing. Save the north hills. Save the south hills. Save the farmland. Protect my neighborhood. Give me a place where I can live.

There may be some mix of people that makes for a good place to live. If I knew what it was, maybe I could do something to encourage it.

I know I’ve left something or someone out. I need some answers. Tell me what to do.Here’s a hypothetical mix of incomes.

10% not working/need complete subsidy.

20% barely making it, do menial work.

30% sort of making it, have places to live because they bought 15 years ago, have sort of not too bad jobs.

20% have those great incomes, either from jobs or retirements or whatever, that allow them to buy those 200,000-500,000 dollar houses you see getting built everywhere.

10% can get whatever they need. They may not want the rest of us living near them.

10% so rich they don’t need anything.

There’s 2% more people every year. They’re born here or move here.

The population ages 2% every year.

So there’s a hypothetical money mix. Fix the mix if you want, I don’t care and for my purposes it probably doesn’t matter. The question I’m asking are, Should all these people have places to live? and, Where or what should they be?

by Rebecca Schmitz

Impact fees and SIDs are technically different things, but their purpose is the same: to help fund the necessary infrastructure that specific neighborhoods and the city as a whole requires. You know, like sidewalks, bike lanes, road construction and repair, and the widening (or narrowing) of the same. Either you, as a potential property owner, will pay upfront as part of the purchase price when costs are lower and the work can be easily completed, or you’ll pay far more years down the line, when streets and private property–yours now–has to be torn up to get the job done. Who’s against impact fees? No surprise there, the Missoula Chamber of Commerce:

Opponents say the proposed cost is exorbitant and unfair, though they don’t dispute the need to find ways to pay for roads. “It’s a complex problem and we are happy to work with the city to look at alternatives,” said Gary Bakke, with the Missoula Chamber of Commerce.

And who thinks the Chamber should play a role in city planning? Ward Two City Council incumbent Don Nicholson.

Ward 2’s Nicholson said Missoula is not friendly as a whole to business. Involving the Chamber of Commerce in planning would help, and paying attention to zoning could as well.

Let’s ignore for the moment the tired old argument that Missoula isn’t “friendly to business”. Really, if you look out your window you can practically see the city moving by the nanosecond towards Frenchtown in one direction and Clinton in the other. If Missoula didn’t like business, somebody then needs to explain why the entire city is debating the direction of sprawl, infill and growth. Like suburbia or not, those are the three best indicators of a healthy economy. No, let’s think about a City Council candidate who thinks the input of a specific special interest group is more important than average citizens–the same citizens who will have to pay the eventual SID taxes just a few years from now, when Missoula moves past their neighborhood on the march towards the future.

Whether or not the final Hillview Way assessment is correct, I’m sure Dr. Linda Frey can tell you all about the consequences of shortsighted planning. Depending on the size of their property, Ward Two voters need to ask themselves if the Chamber and Don Nicholson will be there to help them pay that possible SID tax of up to $65,000 when it’s their turn to write a check for road reconstruction.

by Rebecca Schmitz has an interesting article today about the Bush Administration blaming the Minneapolis bridge collapse on…wait for it…bike paths.  Yes, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters claims that money wasted on bike paths nationwide, as well as other projects, could have saved those poor commuters’ lives last month.

“There are museums that are being built with that money, bike paths, trails, repairing lighthouses. Those are some of the kind of things that that money is being spent on, as opposed to our infrastructure,” she said. The secretary added that projects like bike paths and trails “are really not transportation.”

I think it’s relevant in light of the ongoing debate in Missoula about bike paths, sharing the road, traffic congestion, the Broadway Diet, and the battles in Ward Two over moving that stretch of Broadway in and out of the larger neighborhood plan created by the local residents. Most of the City Council candidates specifically addressed transportation concerns in the questionnaires published in the Missoulian. Our town has to keep traffic flowing smoothly if we want to be a regional hub with a thriving economy. However, can government officials and private citizens seriously argue that spending money on bike paths endangers commuter safety? This is my favorite quote from the Salon article:

“The guy in his Humvee taking his videos back to the video store isn’t any more legitimate a trip than the guy on the Raleigh taking his videos back,” says Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

by Rebecca Schmitz
There are two different stories out there about the special improvement district tax, or SID, proposed for Hillview Way as reported in the Missoulian. Keila Szpaller has one version:

“I’m going to probably have to sell my house,” said Linda Frey, who has lived in the neighborhood more than 30 years and owns roughly 10 acres she never planned to develop. The Missoula City Council is considering a special improvement district, or tax, that would affect some 1,000 properties in the area. If the tax is approved, Frey said she would be hit with a $65,000 assessment. And that would price her out of a neighborhood where she planned to retire.

Personally, I know I would have a meltdown if I saw that figure on a tax bill, a credit card bill, or any kind of bill, really. The article continues:

As proposed, the tax is estimated to run property owners anywhere from $10 to $27 a month. Most principal assessments range from $1,000 to $5,000, so Frey’s cost is higher than most. Frey, however, said the assessment is calculated as though she planned to develop her acreage. One idea aired to soften the blow is a tax deferment, but Frey doesn’t believe that would help. Accruing interest would only increase the bottom line. And she said like many people, her home is her only asset.

When I first read this, I was angry for Frey. Who’s walking or biking up Hillview Way on a regular basis? $65,000? Are they kidding me? What are people on limited incomes supposed to do? But then the latest edition of Ward Three Councilman Bob Jaffe’s Missoulagov Digest appeared in my e-mail inbox. Councilman Jaffe has another version of the Hillview Way SID.

Linda Frey’s situation is exactly what we were concerned about when we created the deferment program for this project. If she has no plans to develop her property she will never pay a dime towards this SID. She owns ten acres up on the hill. If she does plan to develop in the future the sale of a single 5400 square foot lot will pay off her obligation along with any interest accrued. The statement that she never plans to build but isn’t interested in the deferment because it accrues interest does not make sense to me. The interest is only of consequence if she develops. But at that time there would be an awful lot of money on the table and this would be only one of a number of significant infrastructure investments she would have to make. I would guess developing ten acres of hillside property to city standards would come with at least a million dollars of infrastructure improvements (at least at the rates the City pays for everything). The $65,000 towards Hillview way needs to be kept in perspective.

The article really could have used a more balanced presentation of the deferment program. The council is very concerned about the SID driving the conversion of open space property. I believe we have come up with a fair solution.

Another thing that came out in committee was that the bike lanes do not come at any extra cost since that space is needed for a breakdown lane anyway. Its just an extra stripe of paint. Also keep in mind that there is a school at the top of this hill. There is no reason kids can’t walk to school when they live close by just because there is a four or five percent grade. Hell, its only up hill one way.

The article reads as if the author’s intent is to foment a sense that the city is out to ruin people. Right up there with police and fire is the city’s obligation to build and maintain infrastructure. None of these essential services come cheap.

Bob Jaffe

Many years ago, I received a degree in history from the University of Montana. Linda Frey, as in Professor Linda Frey, Ph.D. of the history department, is a brilliant teacher. I never took any classes from her–her field is early modern Europe and mine was the American West–but I have a few close friends and fellow history grads who consider her one of their mentors. I can’t imagine Dr. Frey got her facts wrong. I’m sure Councilman Jaffe knows what he’s talking about. That leaves one corporate newspaper responsible for not getting both sides of this story.

by Pete Talbot

Usually the folks at the WGM group can be seen at council meetings or at the Office of Planning and Grants. They’re there to mitigate regulations for subdivisions and other developments – things like siting of homes, allotment of open space, density, streets and curbs and gutters, etc. WGM is also often involved with the city and county on major road projects and other infrastructure issues.

Apparently they’re interested in bike paths, too, and have advanced a plan for city trails. I quote:

“We have a lot of folks in our office who bike to work from all parts of the valley. We have brainstormed on where Missoula’s bicycle network could be expanded and have prepared a map for discussion purposes. If you’re interested, you may view it at: Since the Transportation Plan is up for revisions, this is a good time for the community to think about where new bike routes could be added.
WGM Group”

It looks like lots of lanes and paths and trails, which is a good thing. There were a few comments that some of the existing paths on the map don’t really exist but most everyone responding thought it was a good starting point for the Transportation Plan update.

As mentioned before at 4&20, if you want to be a part of this conversation you need to go to:

A little house cleaning and unrelated to the above topic:

Yesterday I was complaining about the need to call a special session of the legislature to address firefighting budget shortcomings. It seemed like an inefficient use of time and money, and an inconvenience for legislators. It has since been pointed out to me that Republicans in the regular legislative session blocked attempts to make the firefighting budget more flexible. So now all the senators and members of the house get to trek back to Helena for what looks like a one-day session. You reap what you sow.


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. 

by jhwygirl

Held in the Public Works Committee, from the July 25th meeting, is the recommendation by the City Engineering department to sell two properties that were acquired as part of the right-of-way for the recently completed England Boulevard extension.

The two properties are now 100 feet long by 47 feet in depth,having lost 53 feet to the new road.

The sale of these two parcels is being held because councilman Jerry Ballas – with a concurring agreement from Ward 2’s Bob Jaffe – think that looking into the possibility of utilizing the parcels for affordable housing is worthwhile.

Bravo to both of them.

The two properties are sandwiched between the Grant Creek Town Center (the shopping centers directly across from Lowes and Costco) and Pleasantview subdivision – in an area with some county zoned parcels (commercial and rural residential – yep, rural residential III) and mobile homes.

The problem as I see it is that the R-IV zoning – which allows for residential and even multi-family residential – has setbacks that will take up most of the depth of the property – a minimum of 20 feet for the front setback and a rear yard setback of 20 feet. That leaves a 7 foot wide buildable area. That’s not going to work.

Maybe I read that wrong. Here’s what the city zoning code says for front and rear setbacks in the R-IV zone:

19.40.030 Front yard. There shall be a front yard having a depth of not less than twenty (20)
feet. However, where there are lots comprising forty (40) percent or more of the frontage developed with buildings between cross streets, having an average front yard with a variation in depth of not more than six (6) feet, no building hereafter erected or altered shall project beyond the front yard line so established; provided further, that this regulation shall not require a front yard of more than thirty (30) feet in depth.
19.40.040 Rear yard. There shall be a rear yard having a depth of not less than twenty (20) feet.


Perhaps the solution would be to rezone the property first, to a commercial zoning, and then sell the property to a housing agency that could build something that would utilize the first floor for small commercial or professional offices, and then the top floors for residential. At 100 feet in length, it could allow for a decent size building.

Exemptions in the city zoning code allow for commercial setbacks when residential is combined with commercial uses.

Further, it might be good to dedicate a ROW right through the center of the two lots – where the side yards meet – to allow for easier parking access to the rear without more of the lot having to be eaten up for each lot to gain access to the rear? Encouraging the buildings to keep to the front street and placing the parking in the rear? Have one shared drive?

The location seems conducive to a commercial rezoning – a large corridor within a shouting distance of existing commercial and county commercial to the west.

I didn’t get to the comprehensive plan maps, but I can leave that to the professionals, no?

All of this – even holding up the sale to explore utilizing the parcels for affordable housing – takes extra time. Kudos to those who are willing to do that and try and make more affordable housing happen.

by Jay Stevens

I admit I don’t read my Missoula City Council listserv discussions as often as I should. It’s a great idea, to start a correspondence between City Council members and the public on issues pertaining to the city. (Just a reminder: none of the correspondence is official business and should not be construed as such.)

In the most recent correspondence, bike lanes on 5th and 6th streets were discussed – two major one-way, two-lane arterials that stretch east-west across the city from Russell to the University. Sixth street is much broader than 5th.

Council member, Bob Jaffe:

In Public Works we saw the plan to re-stripe 5th and 6th streets. A while back the public works department proposed raising the speed limit on those streets to bring the posted limit in line with what people actually drive.

The neighbors didn’t like that idea so we asked the department to come up with ways to bring people’s driving speed more in line with what was posted.

The least expensive approach is to re-stripe the road with more narrow lanes. There will be a bike lane on 5th but there is not enough room on 6th.

John Wolverton responded with an accurate description of biking 6th – which goes towards the city center, towards Higgins. Included was a brilliant suggestion for accommodating bike traffic:

Bicycle-commuting on 6th Street is like a slalom; trying to hug the curb for safety sake, but constantly having to veer left around the numerous and deep stormwater drain-sumps. It really needs a bike lane…

This is especially true of 6th street between Orange and Higgins, where the traffic is the heaviest and the street the narrowest and sketchiest…

I’ve rarely seen more than 4 or 5 motor-vehicles qued up at 6th Street stoplights; so if space is an issue perhaps a single motor-vehicle travel lane is in order. That would also allow for right turn lanes at the stoplights which could alleviate some of the queuing.

If you believe that 6th Street is an important avenue for moving motor vehicles; properly striped, it could be just as important for bicycle commuters.

Brilliant! John is absolutely correct about the traffic. In fact, 6th street between Russell and Orange is hardly used. (Don’t tell all the folks plowing east-west on Broadway, though.) One lane would easily accommodate motor traffic along those blocks. Between Orange and Higgins is another matter; the stretch from Higgins to the university should probably remain two lanes, but it’s wide and already has a decent bike lane. (Repaint it?)

Jordan Hess, chair of the ASUM board of transportation, responded with a more specific suggestion:

I checked all the traffic counts for 5th/6th streets and we could realistically have one vehicle lane with a bi-directional bike lane for the entire length of both streets.To satisfy the university and the state DOT, these streets could revert to 2 travel lanes during the half dozen events on campus that require that much capacity.

In a 40 foot street, the following would be a good use of space:
— Curb and Gutter
— 6 feet of bike lanes in each direction for a total of 12 feet
— 10 foot vehicle travel lane
— 18 feet for angled parking
— Curb and Gutter

The angled parking would keep cyclists safe by keeping parking cars from traveling through the bike lanes. It would also allow for the same amount of parking as is currently available. This would provide another safe route for bicycles traveling to and from the university. Considering the high mode share of bikers to and from campus, this is a great way to safely accommodate everyone.

(It was later clarified in the correspondence that the angled parking should be between the traffic and the bike lanes as a buffer.)

I don’t know if we need 12 feet of bicycle lane. In Europe, they fit two bike lanes in about three feet. But now we’re talking! This would be a biker’s dream!

Council President Ed Childers adds this warning:

One item of concern of which we’ve been apprised: when a lane is wide enough for cars & trucks, cars & trucks will use it.

It’s possible that traffic volumes can easily be accommodated by the single-lane approach. If so, how should that (motor vehicles in the bike lane) be addressed?

…reminding me of trying to bike in downtown San Francisco where FedEx and UPS trucks used the bike lanes as their personal delivery spaces.

Jordan recommended using bollards, steel poles used a barrier, but removable for special events.

All fine and good, excellent suggestions, wonderful discussion, we’ll see it implemented when pigs fly. Why? Cost. Also, consider that the 5th and 6th street corridors are some of our best biking corridors now available. Should creating a biker’s paradise on streets that are half decent take precedence over improving disasterous roads? On the whole, our north-south arterials need help, fast! Orange street? Nightmare. Russell? Death road. Reserve’s pretty good if you breathe exaust and can actually turn onto the street. Higgins north of Hellgate High is pinched, crowded, and has poor sight lines. (Tho’ south of that intersection is a dream!)

On the other hand, if we create a “model” road that’s safe and fast and accommodates bikers and traffic, maybe we could build interest for like projects, and slowly build excellent infrastructure for bikers…

For a last bit to mull over, Bob Giordano of Free Cycles chips in with an observation about city planning:

It’s frustrating to have officials always say we need to design the roads for exact predicted motor vehicle traffic volumes in the future, but when it comes to having excess capacity, there is reluctance to make that space available for non-motorized transport. It’s a double standard that discriminates against cyclists…


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