Infill development and the cost of home construction in Missoula took center stage on Wednesday as a local family made its first pitch to members of the City Council for a subdivision planned on the city’s booming west side.
While surrounding residents weren’t outwardly opposed to the Hellgate Gardens project, saying development is inevitable west of Reserve Street, several suggested the project was too dense and would not blend with the surrounding neighborhood.
Paul Forsting of Territorial Landworks, representing applicant Adam Hertz and property owners, Mary and Bruce Siren, made his first pitch for a conditional use to construct 22 single-family homes and seven two-unit townhomes on roughly 6 acres.
The 36-unit development would sit off Siren Road west of Flynn Lane.
“(Hertz) wanted to create houses that were close to the median price point,” said Forsting. “He had heard through the community that that’s what folks were looking for – an attainable housing price. We’ve looked at how to do that and met with the city on the final design, and we’ve landed on something just over that.”
Forsting said the final price for the homes will sit just north of $300,000 – a price that represents the cost of installing infrastructure and the number of units planned for the site.
Similar projects, including Scott Street Village, offer price points in the $200,000 range. But Forsting said that project received tax increment financing from the city to help cover the cost of infrastructure.
The Hellgate Gardens project doesn’t sit in an urban renewal district and doesn’t qualify for the same funding.
“If you’re looking at how much it costs to do a project, this is the exact market rate of what a project results in,” said Forsting. “These 36 units were put in a configuration that (Hertz) and I believe are very livable. There’s always some give and take on what infrastructure you can get and some compromise there.”
As proposed, the project meets the city’s new growth policy, which calls for three to 11 units per acre. At 36 units, the proposed density of Hellgate Gardens is roughly 5.5 units per acre.
While that fits the city’s growth policy, several nearby residents said it was too much, including Steven Jacobson. Representing his parents who own a neighboring property, Jacobson said the proposed development would be out of character.
“Anything that happens with this development will impact our property and any future plans for it,” said Jacobson. “The subdivision looks well designed and a good use of the property, but our concern is the density of it.”
The area west of Reserve Street and north of Mullan Road has seen rapid growth in recent years. The most recent project included a 330-unit apartment project off Mullan Road, which itself is eyed for improvement.
Missoula County last month also applied for a $19 million federal grant to complete the area’s infrastructure. If approved, that project would create new north-south connectors to alleviate traffic while laying the groundwork for future housing and light industrial development.
Longtime area residents have watched the area’s infill, and while some properties reflect the days of one home per acre, Jacobson admits those days are gone as the city grows and properties around its fringe are eyed for urban-style development.
“All we can ask as landowners, as these are brought into the city and annexed, is that the zoning has some sort of consistency to it,” said Jacobson. “This property is going to be developed, and we’d like to see it developed to a slightly lesser density to better match the surrounding area.”
The Missoula City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal on Monday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.