A 20-unit subdivision planned off Greenough Drive made its debut before the Missoula City Council on Wednesday, which is scheduled to make a final decision on the proposal early next month.
The project, proposed by Greenough Heights LLC and represented by the IMEG Corp., won the unanimous approval of the Consolidated Planning Board last week and is recommended for approval by city planning staff with a number of conditions.
While members of the City Council have yet to voice their personal opinion on the project, a number of questions around bear-smart requirements, protecting water quality during construction, and the relatively mild density of the project have already surfaced.
The subdivision would include 20 single-family homes on 5.8 acres of open field. After setback requirements, parkland dedication, streets, sidewalks and right-of-way requirements are met, the project comes to a density of around 3.8 units per acre.
However, current zoning allows for more than 5 units per acre, making the 3.8 units far less than what’s permitted.
“When we talk about higher density, we’re not necessarily talking about apartment buildings,” said council member Mirtha Becerra. “We’re focused on the missing middle as an opportunity for diverse income levels to enter the housing market. This would have been a great opportunity to offer that rather than single-family homes.”
Two years ago, the council denied a zoning request in Grant Creek that would have increased one project’s housing density. The decision was largely based on push-back from neighbors and their concerns over traffic and access.
Now, however, council members want greater density.
“We weren’t thinking highest density. This was trying to fit into the neighborhood without over-development,” said Anna Vickers with IMEG. “It wasn’t trying to put a whole bunch of multiplexes in here but more to fit into the neighborhood.”
Council members also expressed interest in bear-smart additions to the development and mitigation to protect stream quality during construction. Project representatives said both will be addressed if the project is approved.
The developers also have agreed to offer additional right-of-way along Greenough Drive, a move that would enable the city to eventually transform the corridor into a complete street for multi-model transportation.
The project will also add sidewalks and a boulevard along Greenough Drive. City planners aren’t requiring the development to bring city sidewalks – which currently end more than 700 feet shy of the project – up to the development.
“That would be a very expensive stretch,” said city planner Dave DeGrandpre. “The subdivision isn’t causing the need and requiring that would be a disproportionate action.”
DeGrandpre said it’s possible, however, that a special improvement district could be created to help fund sidewalks and bike lanes along Greenough Drive in the future. That could require homeowners in Greenough Heights and others in the Rattlesnake to pay in to fund the improvements.
The slow creep into Greenough Park also is a concern and has been an issue with properties surrounding the popular park for years. Over time, there have been a number of disputes between the city and property owners about where the park boundaries actually sit.
“All of these homes up the Rattlesnake, over time, have had issues with where their property ends and where Greenough Park begins,” said council member Gwen Jones. “I’d hate to be sitting in a situation where we’re creating a new development and there isn’t something in place with this area, so we don’t have that issue 20 years from now with that slow creep into the park.”
The council will continue its public hearing on the proposal on Monday and make a decision the following week.