Mullan area transportation plan, land-use plan to progress together as process begins

Separate but parallel planning efforts focused on a wide region west of Reserve Street in Missoula will gain momentum in the coming months, city and county officials told the Urban Growth Commission this week.

Missoula County contracted Dover, Kohl and Partners this week to spearhead a land use plan for several thousand acres west of Reserve – an area bounded by Mullan Road and West Broadway.

By the end of the month, the county also expects to have a contract in place with DJ&A, which will head up transportation planning for the same region.

“We as staff who have been working on these two projects for the past six to nine months have always been talking about how those two projects will integrate together when the time is right,” said county planner Andrew Hagemaier. “That time is now.”

The lack of a land use plan served as a point of controversy as the Missoula City Council debated the approval of a new subdivision off Mullan Road late last year.

While no one disputed the need for additional housing, those who opposed the project wanted it to wait until the land use plan was completed. Early stages of the project were given a green light regardless, though other projects are waiting in the wings.

Future projects would be guided by the land use plan, which will also be influenced by the transportation plan.

“Part of the master plan will create typical road sections, which will then influence what the engineering of those roads will look like,” said Hagemaier. “What the engineers do in their design will effect elements of the master plan.”

In partnership with the city, Missoula County applied for and received a $13 million federal BUILD grant to make road improvements to the area. Conceptual plans include connecting George Elmer Drive and Mary Jane Boulevard from Mullan to West Broadway, and extending England Boulevard further west.

The transportation grant will help fund nearly three miles of new roads and open access to nearly 1,500 acres of developable land west of Reserve. It could also lead to the placement of thousands of new homes and an estimated 7,000 jobs.

But where and how that growth occurs will be a combination of planning and public input. Several public charrettes will take place over the coming months, and new zoning codes will likely emerge along the way.

“They would be new zoning districts, and our hope would be that we’d not only be able to use them there, but in other situations inside the city,” said city planner Tom Zavits.

“Most of this area is in the county right now, but as it develops, a lot of the denser residential would be annexed over time. It depends what the plan looks like, and it depends what we end up with.”

The transportation plan is expected to reach 30% design by May. The land use plan should run a parallel path, Hagemaier said. Both DJ&A and Dover-Kohl will be working side by side throughout the process, he added.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for alignment with these two projects,” he said. “Both teams realize that this other project is going on, and they’re already thinking about this. We’ll put them virtually in a room together very soon.”