‘Agrihood’ gets thumbs up from Missoula Planning Board; 260 lots in Sxwtpqyen area
(Missoula Current) The Missoula Consolidated Planning Board this week recommended approval of what would become the state's first “agrihood,” as well as the first project to be reviewed under new codes created to guide development within the Sxwtpqyen Master Planning area.
The West End Farms subdivision, proposed at Flynn Lane and England Boulevard, covers 71 acres and provides 26 acres of open space. Of that open space, 10 acres would be open to farming.
“We've been working for a year-and-a-half on who would farm it,” said developer Justin Metcalf. “I'm confident we'll get there. I'd be happy to collaborate with anyone who has ideas on that.”
The development's design clusters 260 lots on what remains outside the open space. The dedication of open space was more than enough to earn the project incentives, allowing it to build at greater density in certain areas of the project.
That density would be achieved through a variety of housing types, which range from cottages and homes to townhomes and condos. Metcalf said the project is targeted as workforce housing, which received praise from the planning board.
However, some board members criticized elements of the plan for overlooking small commercial opportunities. The Sxwtpqyen Master Plan plan calls for small commercial nodes, something West End Farms is lacking.
“I support this in general and I like the dispersion of residential types and densities. I think they're following the intent of the (Sxwtpqyen) plan,” said Dave Loomis. “But I'm a little disappointed there's no commercial of any kind that serves this particular subdivision. I know they're not required.”
Other board members expressed similar concerns. Metcalf said he would explore his options.
“This commercial concern is new to me. I haven't heard of it. I'm an affordable housing developer by trade and wanted to do something at scale. I have been focused on the affordability component of it. We're really plowing new ground here. But I'm more than happy to go back and revisit that (commercial piece).”
The Sxwtpqyen Master Plan identifies various areas for certain development styles. The area eyed for West End Farms sits in the Crossroads Center, which is intended to serve as a transition between existing neighborhoods to the east and the higher-intensity development planned to the north and west.
Those areas are identified in the plan as Town Center and Community Center. It's there where commercial opportunities and taller building heights are expected to land. West End Farms is only seeking two basic variances, which the planning board recommended for approval.
“This project is the first to be reviewed by the public for the Sxwtpqyen Master Plan area. This created some challenges throughout the process,” said Joe Dehnert with IMEG. “The intent of the form-based code in our experience is often at odds with some of the regulations. Everyone involved in this project has gone above and beyond to ensure the design meets the intent and goals of the master plan.”
Members of the planning board agreed and praised city staff for guiding the project through the new process required by the master plan. A number of other projects are expected to follow over the coming years as the neighborhood fills in.
“Moving toward form-based code can be difficult,” said board member Josh Schroeder. “But I think this is a good example in how it promotes a diversity of housing types and incentivezes next-generation type of community building. That's evident in the plan.”
The project will head to City Council for approval and annexation in the coming weeks. Already, council is working through another large subdivision with Riverfront Trails in South Missoula and is expected to vote on the project on Monday.