City Council restarts consideration of Grove Street townhomes after notification error

The Grove Street subdivision includes the Kolendich family’s set-aside of 6.19 acres of open space for the city and the extension of the Milwaukee Trail past the townhomes. (Missoula Current)

A controversial townhome development in Missoula’s Orchard Homes subdivision drew a protest outside City Council Chambers Monday night, but wound up not being discussed during the meeting because of a procedural error.

In fact, the 31-townhome Grove Street subdivision will begin the process through City Council committee meetings and public hearings anew in January because notifications were not sent by certified mail to all neighbors.

Nearly two dozen of those nearby residents were on hand to protest the development, but left the meeting after Mayor John Engen said the process would start fresh on Jan. 3 – with four new City Council members to hear their complaints.

“I apologize for the inconvenience, but we try to do things right,” Engen said. “In this case, we violated our own rules so we will not hear it tonight.”

As planned by the Kolendich family, the Grove Street development would place 15 two-unit townhomes and one single-unit townhome on 4.14 acres of land that, as part of the rezoning and townhome exemption process, would be annexed into the city.

If approved, the new RT5.4 zoning would allow 8 units per acre. The current zoning, as well as zoning in surrounding neighborhoods, allows 4 units per acre.

Therein lies the nearby neighbors’ chief complaint: The new development is too crowded and out of sync with the area’s design and housing density.

At a City Council hearing earlier this month, the Grove Street neighbors told council members that they always expected the vacant ground to be developed.

But they never expected it to be so densely packed.

“The proposed zoning would create an island of high-density structures inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood,” said a single-spaced, three-page statement read – three minutes at a turn – by the surrounding homeowners.

“The proposed zoning would not allow for the light agricultural use characteristic of the neighborhood. The height and size of the structures proposed in the conditional use permit application would be particularly uncharacteristic of the surrounding properties.”

Now the neighborhood will get another chance to object.

The City Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee will discuss the proposed annexation at its Jan. 3 meeting, set for 10:15 a.m. in City Council Chambers.

The proposal would then return to the full City Council on Jan. 8 for first reading, then would be advertised and set for a public hearing on Feb. 5.

The proposed townhome exemption allowing the greater density of development would be heard in committee on Jan. 31 and then before the full City Council at the Feb. 5 public hearing.

Engen told Orchard Homes residents that the proper notifications will be sent by certified mail and that the full schedule for reconsideration will be posted on the city of Missoula’s website.

The proposal also includes about 6.19 acres of open space for the city and the extension of the Milwaukee Trail past the townhomes.