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Growth: Missoula County appoints members to Impact Fee Advisory Board

The first phase of Hellgate Village continues to make progress. It’s one of several subdivisions moving forward west of Missoula. Missoula County will explore placing impact fees on new development, similar to the city. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

After receiving eight applications to fill five positions on a new Impact Fee Advisory Board, Missoula County on Tuesday opted to expand the board to eight, calling each applicant a good fit for the task ahead.

With the county’s support, the Missoula City Council this month approved placing impact fees on new development in the Mullan area to help fund the cost of infrastructure.

The county also hired a consultant in Tischler Bise to conduct a study on such fees and whether it too will place them on new development. The newly minted board of eight will help make recommendations regarding those fees, along with how to spend them if they’re ultimately adopted.

“They would provide input as you’re looking to expend those fees,” said Chris Lounsbury, the county’s chief administrative officer. “They’d make recommendations on requested projects.”

While the city and county received $13 million in federal funding in 2019, it had initially sought $23 million to help fund the Mullan BUILD project.

The disparity left the project $10 million shy of the funding needed to complete the work. Both the city and county believe impact fees can help cover the difference and ensure current and future development helps pay for the cost of infrastructure.

“We had eight fantastic discussions with eight really smart people who want to serve our community and take on this difficult and thorny issue,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “I would like to have all eight of them involved. They all represent different constituencies.”

Under state law, the board’s members must represent different sectors, including the development community, agriculture and others. While most boards and committees have an odd number of members, commissioners weren’t concerned with having an equal number.

“If they come up with a plan and end up locked 4-4, even if they came up with a plan 7-1, it would still be the three of us making the decision anyway,” said Slotnick. “That 4-4 would be a meaningful thing just as 7-1 would be a meaningful thing.

Impact fees represent a one-time charge placed upon new development to help cover the cost of laying infrastructure ahead of current and future growth.

According to Tischler-Bise, the Mullan area currently claims around 9,000 residents, though that’s expected to increase to 26,000 residents in 30 years and employ around 10,000 people.

The cost of the Mullan BUILD project also is expected to push $35 million. The impact fees will cover roughly half of that cost over 30 years, generating around $18.6 million.

The county has considered impact fees in the past, though it didn’t adopt them.

“Missoula County considered impact fees once before,” said Lounsbury. “There was a previous incarnation of the board. That board ceased when the county chose not to pursue impact fees at that time.”

The applicants are:

Richard Hall

Geoffrey Birnbaum

Jim Bachand

Neva Hassanein

John Newman

Glenda Bradshaw

Richelle DeVoe

Missoula County exploring pros, cons of impact fees on new development

Missoula City Council approves Mullan impact fees ahead of planned growth

Missoula County backing city’s proposed impact fees on Mullan area development