Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) One of Missoula's larger agricultural nurseries on Thursday received an extension to meet a number of conditions sought by the county which, if fulfilled, would enable the company to use its property for commercial sales.

The property, owned by Ibey's Nursery, sits off Butler Creek Road and Interstate 90. The roughly 6-acre lot includes a permitted agricultural operation along with several buildings, though the buildings aren't compliant with the existing agricultural covenant.

Ibey is seeking to have that covenant lifted, which would allow the nursery to conduct plant sales.

“In 2001, Missoula County chose to place an agriculture use covenant on the property, which limited the property to agricultural uses only,” said county planner Lauren Ryan. “It's been used as a nursery site that's considered to be an agricultural use.”

Since the agricultural covenant restricted the property's uses, the county in 2019 approved a request for a one-lot subdivision that effectively removed the agricultural covenant.

The county approved the request with 15 conditions and set a final plat deadline of October 2022. The date has come and gone and not all conditions have been met.

“Due to Covid 19, the subdividers timeline to meet the conditions was disrupted,” Ryan said. “The applicant's partner was also involved in an automobile accident, which attributed to the delay of the final plat. They've been actively working toward compliance and have proposed they can meet the new deadline.”

The county gave preliminary approval to the subdivision in 2019 simply to life the agricultural covenant. While sales of nursery stock have occurred on the site, current restrictions don't permit those uses.

Lifting the covenant would permit nursery-related sales without being in violation of county codes. Representatives from Ibey didn't attend Thursday's hearing.

“It's a bit of a conundrum why those requirements haven't been met,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier.

However, members of the county's planning department said they expected Ibey to meet the conditions and file their final plat “in a week or two.” Ibey is one of the several large nurseries operating in Missoula.