Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A project now years in the making moved closer to reality this week when Missoula County approved a water-main extension to a parcel of property in East Missoula.

The new main will supply an 18-unit residential building planned on Highway 200 – a location that once was slated to provide up to 59 housing units but has caused disagreement in recent years on how it should be developed.

“Public works was approached by Woith Engineering in January with this request that will provide service to an 18-plex residential development at Highway 200,” said Erik Dickson with the county. “Public Works requires that water-main extensions be approved by the county before an excavation permit is requested.”

A zoning variance was placed on the property in 2011 to accommodate a site plan that specifically sought to build 44 housing units in three buildings. But the variance allowed for nothing else, and the proposed project never took place.

The development team in 2021 asked the county to remove that old variance from the property, saying it was limiting their options in how to develop the property. They also said it would bring the zoning in line with what's in place on surrounding parcels and enable them to build up to 59 affordable housing units.

But at the time, the county was working on a new zoning map and denied the development team's request to remove that old zoning variance. East Missoula residents also opposed both the zoning change and the proposed project.

Dickson said the project now planned for the site includes just 18 housing units - far less than both previous attempts to develop the parcel. The developers already have submitted the required permits to state agencies.

“Everything is good to go from those permitting agencies,” Dickson said. “There will be no cost to Missoula County for the water main.”