City’s planning office seeks new position to help with growth

Development Services is expected to request an additional planner in the city’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget to help it get ahead of growth and interface the city’s other development plans. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

An additional planner would enable Missoula’s development arm to interface multiple city plans and address future growth before it happens, the city’s planning manager said Wednesday.

With the budgeting season fast approaching, Development Services is expected to request an additional full-time planner for the next fiscal year to help it achieve the city’s development goals sooner than later.

They include the city’s recently adopted growth policy, an annexation strategy, a housing policy, design standards and neighborhood planning, among others.

“With an additional planner, we can start to interface all those things together,” said Laval Means, the planning division manager for Development Services. “Without an additional planner, we’ll need to wait to get through one step before we can get to the next step.”

Means, addressing the City Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee, said her office currently consists of 4.5 full time equivalent positions. One of those, however, is an historic preservation officer who handles other tasks withing the department and is funded by the city’s general fund.

Roughly 45 percent of the county’s planning mill and entitled shares fund the rest of the department and has for years, Means said. That includes one senior planner and two other planning positions.

“There’s so much to do with each of those positions,” Means said. “We’re putting in a request for an additional FTE, and when you look at what we accomplish with our 3.5 and what we have to do, asking for one additional FTE is like asking for an additional effort we can put into planning needs for the city.”

Means said the agency remains busy with ongoing tasks, including historic preservation, mapping and data updates, reporting on the city’s growth policy, and staying abreast of changing subdivision regulations.

There are also projects the department is committed to and has already initiated, including the latest effort to craft design excellence standards, drafting a housing strategy and planning for the future of the Brooks Street corridor.

But Means said there are other long-range needs that must be addressed.

“There are things we need to do to be prepared for the growth and development in our community that balances with the importance of the character we already have, the neighborhood needs and even our sustainability needs,” Means said.

The Land Use and Planning Committee took no action on Wednesday.

“This is an ambitious plan, but all the items in here, I would say, are critical in kicking off the trajectory here, specific to an annexation strategy, a housing strategy and design excellence,” said Ward 4 council member John DiBari. “All those things set the stage on how we’re going to carry out the rest of this and how the community is going to look and function over time.”

Budgeting presentations are expected to begin next week.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com