Missoula City Council gives initial approval to Grove Street zoning, annexation

The City Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee approved a zoning and annexation request regarding 10.5 acres of land just east of Reserve Street. Half the property will be set aside as open space while the other half is eyed for a 31-unit townhome development. (Google Earth)

Members of the Missoula City Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee on Wednesday moved closer to annexing a small parcel of Reserve Street property into the city and zoning half of it for a planned townhome development.

The parcel’s other half would be added to the city’s inventory of open space if approved by the full City Council next month.

The Kolendich family has owned the property for more than a century and began working with the city more than a year ago to set aside roughly 6 acres as open space, including an extension of the Milwaukee Trail across the Clark Fork River.

Last February, the city and county approved spending $320,000 in open space bond proceeds to purchase the parcel.

“It’s a crucial link between existing city trails, and city and county conservation lands,” said Mary McRae with Development Services. “Further west are conservation easement lands and land owned by the state and managed by Fish, Wildlife and Parks.”

Kolendich Properties LLC, represented by Territorial Landworks, is also seeking a townhome exemption to develop the parcel’s remaining 4.4 acres.

While the proposed 31-acre Grove Street development initially drew opposition from surrounding residents, one neighborhood representative said Wednesday they’d work with the developer to address their concerns.

“Most of us in our community aren’t against this project,” said resident Morgan Hirschenberger. “We’re against some of the key characteristics of the buildings that will be directly adjacent to our property line.”

Hirschenberger said the developer has reached out to residents to set a meeting to hear their concerns. As they stand, those concerns address the placement of the proposed buildings and fear that they could block winter light from existing homes.

“We’re really hoping we can come to a situation where we’re not fighting against this project, but where we’re actually supportive of this project,” said Hirschenberger. “I haven’t talked to anyone in our community against the open space aspect, but I hope we can come to agreement with the developer on the buildings that are planned.”

McRea said state law permits the city to assign zoning criteria with annexation, so long as it meets one of three criteria, including consistency with land uses set forth in the city’s growth policy.

Adopted by the city three years ago, the policy looks to preserve open space and promote compact development through infill and clustered development. The Kolendich proposal would do both, resulting in a density of less than four dwelling units per acre.

“The growth policy we adopted in 2015 was about a yearlong public process,” said council member Bryan von Lossberg. “I appreciate the staff work to connect zoning and annexation to the growth policy and its criteria.”

A conditional use request tied to the subdivision will be heard by the committee later this month. That, along with annexation and zoning request approved Wednesday, will be heard by the full City Council on Feb. 5.