Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Citing the nexus between Missoula's development plans and work taking place to reform the city's zoning codes, members of the City Council on Wednesday tasked its consultant with updating the growth policy.

In May, council awarded a contract with Metta Urban Design to lead the Comprehensive Code Reform Project. As that work began, the need to update the city's growth policy emerged as a necessity.

“In preparing and planning for the code reform work, it became clear early on that there's a federal relationship between code reform and the growth policy,” said city planner Ben Brewer. “The code reform work acknowledges the critical work between policy and regulation.”

After a lengthy public process, the city adopted its current Our Missoula Growth Policy in 2015, setting a vision for land use, planning and growth over the next 30 years. Under state law, the document must be reviewed every five years and updated where necessary.

At the same time, the city this year stated its intent to revamp its building and zoning codes and to compile a wide range of documents into a single manual that's easy to follow. Doing so will modernize the city's subdivision regulations and streamline the construction of housing, among other things.

“The consultant team is already well into the early phase of work that's primarily of an auditing nature, and they're busy familiarizing themselves with our policies and regulations,” Brewer said. “We're anticipating a public roll-out in early- to mid-November.”

The end goal looks to streamline regulatory codes developed more than a decade ago and condense them into a single document. The reform will result in more clarity and consistency, which could bring predictability to the development process, advocates contend.

While that effort plays out, city officials said it was necessary to update the growth policy as well to ensure the work aligns once it's finished.

“I think we all know that our guiding documents, particularly our growth policy, is incredibly important in guiding our growth,” said council member Mirtha Becerra. “It's imperative that it jives with our code reform, not just for staff purposes but for the development community and the community at large to have these two documents working in tandem.”