City adds conditions on 44 Ranch development over water quality concerns

 

The revised phasing plan amendment at the 44 Ranch subdivision of Mullan Road will see additional road work take place this summer, along with the platting of more than 30 new lots, bringing to 261 the number of lots platted since the subdivision broke ground several years ago.

Members of the Missoula City Council added three new conditions to future phases of a growing valley subdivision, despite the developer’s concern that at least one condition could drive up the cost of housing.

The conditions placed upon 44 Ranch Estates, unanimously approved on Wednesday, include the construction of a connector street to Mullan Road sooner rather than later, and efforts to intercept runoff before it enters Grant Greek, which is considered an impaired waterway.

Mary McCrea with Development Services said the latter condition requires the developer, Grass Valley LLC, to investigate several storm water treatment options to improve the water quality in Grant Creek.

Among them, the developer must look at directing storm water to bioswales placed in both the median of Cattle Drive, as well as a 3-acre common area. It also directs the developer to optimize a nearby floodplain so it performs as a storm water wetland.

“Before many more phases are filed, it would be good to have a plan for how to uptake some nitrates before it gets to Grant Creek,” McCrea said. “We’d like it on the record that they’re willing to investigate and see.”

The subdivision was initially approved by the City Council 2005 and was subject to 30 conditions of approval. Three additional conditions were added on Wednesday as the developer sought an amended phasing plan to address the cost of infrastructure.

Ryan Salisbury, a civil engineer with WGM Group and a representative of Grass Valley LLC, said the subdivision has provided needed workforce housing to city residents, and the project has progressed well in recent years.

Nearly 230 lots have been platted thus far with more than 30 others planned by the end of this year.

“The bottom line is, these conditions will add cost to the workforce housing function of 44 Ranch,” Salisbury said. “It provides unknowns that the developer will have to navigate. We also believe the Grant Creek water quality issue is the result of many things outside our control.”

Among them, Salisbury noted the large agriculture fields located upstream that feed nitrogen into Grant Creek, along with nearby cattle grazing. Back in the 1950s, he added, a rancher rerouted a portion of the creek, increasing the tributary’s sedimentation.

Salisbury said the developer has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to mitigate storm water runoff and sedimentation resulting from the subdivision. Other improvements are working to treat concerns over nitrogen, he said.

“I don’t know how much more we can do in that area to treat storm water,” he said. “We understand we need to do what we can now, but we’re doing a lot with our storm water. It’s not just being dumped into Grant Creek.”

The future road grid included in plans for the 44 Ranch subdivision will include connections between Mullan Road and Englund Boulevard, along with a stop light at George Elmer Drive and Mullan.

While the developer works with regulators and local government to address storm water, Grass Valley is also looking toward road construction as future phases of the subdivision come online.

That work will involve several connectors within 44 Ranch linking Mullan Road with Englund Boulevard, including George Elmer and Chuck Wagon drives.

Eventually, George Elmer Drive will include a traffic signal at Mullan Road. The projects add to the area’s growing road network as additional development moves in.

“Without this development, George Elmer wouldn’t have been constructed at this point,” said Salisbury. “Eventually, it’s going to be a connection to England Boulevard and north-south connection to West Broadway and, I hope, provides relief at the Mullan and Reserve Street intersection.”