For the second time in a month, Missoula County has pointed to delays in financing and other complex issues rather than regulatory barriers as the root cause of what’s been reported as protracted delays in bringing some area development projects to completion.
The small C&H subdivision, located on Highway 10 just west of the airport, received a one-year extension from the county last week to make improvements that were guaranteed as part of initial approval.
The county granted preliminary approval for the project back in 2018, followed by final approval last year. Still, the light-industrial development sought a new agreement this month to finish roughly $83,000 in work as part of the project.
“The work hasn’t been completed in the time frame of the original agreement,” said deputy county attorney John Hart. “But they’ve guaranteed the completion of that work, which is primarily road building, earth work and stormwater retention, with a letter of credit from First Montana Bank. They are promising to complete the work within a year.”
The extension granted to C&H subdivision marks the second time this month the county has granted such an agreement. In early June, a 350-lot subdivision planned in 11 phases on 184 acres north of the Wye also ran into delays related to financing and other aspects of the guarantee initially approved by the county.
That subdivision, known as Running W, was approved 16 years ago subject to nearly 36 conditions. The owner, Williams Development LLC, is now selling Phase 2A to ASJ Ventures, a Montana LLC comprised of three partners.
However, closing the deal with Williams Development couldn’t occur until the county approved a new agreement, and that required ASJ to provide a guarantee that it could financially afford to complete the required work.
In offering that guarantee, ASJ offered a letter of credit to the county from Private Money Capital in the amount of $641,000. As additional assurance, it also referenced a Fund Management Agreement, making it obligated to deposit around $1.7 million with a third party.
The complexity of the financial transaction and the 16 years that have lapsed since the Running W project was first approved pending infrastructure work prompted the county to take issue with recent reports that it takes up to seven months to get a project approved.
That seven-month timeline was compiled by the Missoula Organization of Realtors in its recent housing report. But like Running W, the delays in the C&H subdivision had nothing to do with the county, Commission Josh Slotnick said.
“This four-year timeline and the ensuing three years after preliminary plat had nothing to do with anything regulatory,” Slotnick said. “The delay here was because the developers had a complicated job and had to get financing and contracts to get this work done. Not because of anything in our midst or control.”