Missoula airport seeks answers before consenting to city annexation

The Missoula Airport Authority wants questions over agricultural and industrial uses, along with potential impact fees, resolved before it agrees to the city of Missoula’s annexation request.

The Missoula County Airport Authority wants a number of questions answered on future land use before it gives consent to the city of Missoula to annex a large swath of airport property between the airfield and Mullan Road.

Lynn Fagan, the airport’s administrative manager and legal adviser, said questions over agricultural and industrial uses, along with potential impact fees, must be resolved before the airport authority agrees to the city’s annexation request.

“In the late 1980s, the airport consented to annexation when we hooked up to the sewer system,” said Fagan. “All the land the terminal is on and most of the leased buildings have already consented to annex into the city. But most of the ag lands – the Pruyn and Deschamps lands between here and Mullan Road – we have not consented, and the city would like us to consent to that.”

The city confirmed in May that it intended to annex the Missoula Development Park and airport in an effort to plan for and guide growth west of the city. The process remains in the early stages and no timeline has been set, though it’s been suggested it could happen this year.

The development park, established by the county over the last two decades, includes 446 acres north of the airport while land south of the airport covers several hundred additional acres. The airport purchased that land back in 2003 from Earl ‘Doc’ Pruyn, though the family retains an agricultural lease for the time being.

The airport’s long-range plan envisions light industrial use and a second parallel runway at some point in the future. The county is also chasing down a federal grant to begin building a proper transportation grid to serve the area.

“On our master plan, that ag use is shown for future industrial and another portion of it is reserved for future aviation,” said airport director Cris Jensen. “Currently it’s being used as ag, but we’re not showing it as ag ultimately.”

Fagan said it’s unclear whether the city can annex ag and industrial land. It’s equally unclear how the city plans to zone the area if the airport did consent to annexation.

Questions around potential impact fees levied by the city on the airport also remain unanswered, giving members of the Missoula County Airport Authority pause until such questions are answered.

“There’s a few things we need to work out with the city first, the biggest being the issue of impact fees and some zoning questions,” Fagan said. “I’ll try to work with them over this next month and hopefully we can come to an agreement on those things.”

Annexation wouldn’t change the airport’s internal management structure.

Mike Haynes, director of the city’s development services, has said the annexation proposal remains in its infancy. The city is looking for ways to overlay city zoning with what’s currently in place in the county.

“We’re really right now looking at the logistics of how and when we might do that,” Haynes told the Missoula Current last month. “We can do the annexation process, but we’re looking at things like zoning, what the county zoning is and what the appropriate city zoning would be.”