Given the city’s westward growth, Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday said they weren’t surprised to learn that the city of Missoula is moving forward this year with plans to annex the Development Park and Missoula International Airport.
However, they said, they’re still waiting for the city to complete an annexation policy, a move commissioners believe would help the two governing bodies work more closely together.
“It would help both governing bodies know what the other’s intention is so it can plan accordingly,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “Plus, it gives the public some understanding of whether they will at some point in time be within the city or not.”
The city’s intent to annex the Missoula Development Park and airport came to light last week during a City Council committee meeting when council member John DiBari suggested annexation planning had begun.
Development Services confirmed the plan, but said the process was early on and gave no timeline for when annexation would take place, though it was suggested that it could happen this year.
The development park, which covers roughly 446 acres, includes a range of hotels and car dealerships, along with light manufacturing and commercial properties. It also includes a tax increment financing district, which sunsets on July 1.
Airport officials expressed no opposition to the city’s annexation plans, and Commissioner Jean Curtiss said the county has no legal say in the process.
“We haven’t talked about it a lot, but the mayor told us, so we knew it was going to happen,” Curtiss said. “I thought it was interesting, them wondering what zoning would go out there. It’s development park zoning.”
City officials last week said they’re looking for ways to overlay city zoning with what’s currently in place in the county. The boundaries proposed for annexation haven’t been set and the city plans to work closely with area property owners, officials added.
Despite the city’s plans, commissioners on Tuesday approved a $95,000 contract to extend a storm drain collection system in the development park.
“We’ve been asking for an annexation policy for quite a while,” Curtiss said. “They say it’s a priority too, but it hasn’t happened.”
Mike Haynes, director of Development Services, said city planners are working on that policy. Once written, he said, it would help inform the city’s annexation process and further define the boundaries of the area proposed for annexation.
Strohmaier said the policy would be helpful to county leaders as they deal with growth on the urban fringe, including the West Broadway corridor, which could be included in the annexation process.
“I haven’t heard any resistance to the idea, other than the policy hasn’t been drafted,” Strohmaier said. “I think both (City) Council and the mayor have been on board with there being a need for such a policy.”