Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) As economic activity grows in several development districts created by Missoula County in recent years, it's now streamlining the authority board that oversees them.

On Tuesday, commissioners delegated wider oversight to the Development Authority, setting it up to serve in an advisory role to the county and its tax increment financing districts. The county has established several such districts to further economic development, including the Bonner West Log Yard and the Missoula Development Park near the airport.

Flanna McLarty, land and economic development specialist, said the Missoula Development Authority was created in 1996 as a port authority, though it hasn't been used in that capacity since 2006. But when the Bonner mill district was created in 2013, the Development Authority gained advisory powers over it.

“Since then, we've created other Targeted Economic Development Districts, but we've never given the Development Authority advisory powers over those TEDDs,” she said. “This gives the Development Authority advisory powers over all the TEDDs in Missoula County.”

The county established its newest TEDD at the Wye in 2019, and it has high hopes for the area as Missoula expands to the west. The county declared several hundred acres in the area as “infrastructure deficient,” and with the TEDD in place and tax increment available, new development will help fund the cost of water, roads and sewer, thus attracting further investment.

Emily Brock, the county's director of lands and economic development, said that while the Development Authority will now oversee each of the county's TEDDs, its powers remain the same in other areas.

“We only addressed the tax increment piece,” she said. “We left all the existing powers of the port authority the same. It doesn't take away the port authority's existing powers. We want to explore those powers and see what we can do with them.”