Airport, city to discuss annexation as Missoula prepares for westward growth

The city believes growth will continue to move west of the current municipal line, and it’s working to plan for the future, which includes an annexation plan expected to move forward this year. The city and Missoula International Airport are set to discuss annexation this week. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Representatives from Missoula International Airport will meet with the city of Missoula this week to discuss the city’s annexation plans, including a large swath of property located south of the airfield.

Lynn Fagan, the airport’s administrative manager and legal adviser, told the Missoula County Airport Authority this week that a number of questions remain over annexation and how it may impact the airport.

“I’ve put together a draft agreement about impact fees and zoning,” Fagen said. “We’ll present the ideal conditions for the airport as the starting point for this venture and see where it goes.”

The city confirmed in May it was looking to annex portions of the Missoula Development Park, which covers 446 acres north of the airport. The intent also looks to the airport itself and the surrounding land in an effort to plan for and guide future growth.

While the city is still working to define its annexation boundaries, Fagen said the vision includes several hundred acres south of the airfield. The airport purchased the property in 2003 as it plans for its own growth.

“The city wants to annex all of it, so that’s basically our negotiating point,” Fagen said. “We want to get some of the issues down on paper and have them in an agreement so we all know where we stand.”

Dale Bickell, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the city’s meeting with the airport looks to provide an update and address any lingering questions.

The city intends to have an annexation map prepared in the coming weeks and act on it this calendar year. Planning for infrastructure and service delivery remain part of the process, Bickell said.

“We want to develop some preliminary ideas related to the land use and what would be out there,” Bickell said. “Obviously, it’s aviation oriented and uses that fit that model. We’d incorporate all the design guidelines the FAA requires, like building height restrictions. We’re just continuing that conversation.”

As the city looks to the future, it has partnered with Missoula County in applying for a $15 million federal grant to help fund a transportation grid near the airport. The project, which carries an estimated cost of $30 million, would create new connectors between Mullan Road and West Broadway.

It would also open access south of the airfield for light industrial development, something the airport is working to create. Projections for the area call for nearly 3,000 units of housing and 7,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.

Bickell said the annexation plans are intended to prepare for that growth.

“The grant application we put in, we’d presume all of that would develop under city development standards,” Bickell said. “Our planning maps and the county’s too, it all really looks at that area as the place where growth is going to happen.”

The airport consented to annexation in the late 1980s when it hooked up to city services. That includes the current and future passenger terminals and most of the buildings located on the airfield.

However, Fagen said, the agreement didn’t include surrounding properties.

“We already consented to annex any part of the airport that’s already been hooked up to the sewer, including the terminal and other aviation buildings,” Fagen said. “But all of the land to the south – the Pruyn land and Deschamps land – anything undeveloped – we have not consented to.”