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Missoula County hires PR firm as it embarks on zoning-code update

Updating the zoning code in the Missoula metropolitan area is a heavy lift, one the county has been eyeing now for years. The results will determine what kind of development is permitted and where. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

As Missoula County updates its zoning code and sets the regulations guiding future development, it’s also looking to expand public participation throughout the process.

This week, the county contracted Big Sky Public Relations to head the effort.

“They provide technical expertise we don’t have, and they can help bolster our capacity to engage the public,” said county planner Andrew Hagemeier. “It’s really important the public has the opportunity to participate in this project.”

Updating the zoning code in the Missoula metropolitan area is a heavy lift, one the county has been eyeing now for years. The results will determine what kind of development is permitted and where.

Already, the county has met with other stakeholders including residents, developers, architects and real estate agents, to gather feedback on current zoning and where it can improve.

Future zoning code will likely include a number of categories such as community values, incentivizing density, overhauling design standards and enhanced tools for enforcement.

It will also aim to correct areas of the code that don’t align with city zoning. The later affirms future growth and the need to align county growth with existing city services to ensure infrastructure is present.

The contract with Big Sky Public Relations was approved for up to $50,000 and is good for the remainder of 2021. The funding is covered in the county’s Fiscal Year ’22 budget.

“I’m really glad we’re doing this. It’s a huge project,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “Getting the message out about the public process that proceeded this and all the good work that’s been done, and allowing for more public engagement, is good.”