Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

An industrial and housing development planned on 160 acres south of the Wye moved closer to approval on Tuesday after the Consolidated Planning Board recommended approval on a unanimous vote.

The Riverside Industrial Major Subdivision, proposed by Riverside Contracting Inc, includes 24 industrial lots and 11 residential lots at the corner of Deschamps and Moccasin lanes.

The project is currently proposed in two phases.

“We plan to commence work toward building out and filing for Phase 1 immediately, with the goal of constructing improvements on the industrial portion of the project in 2023,” said developer Jeff Smith. “Some of the development on this site can contribute to the improvement of the Wye's Targeted Economic Development District.”

Citing a lack of infrastructure, Missoula County created the economic development district in 2020. Like other tax increment districts, new projects will pay to fund improvements within the district's boundaries including sewer, water and other vital infrastructure.

Currently, that infrastructure is lacking and is among the reasons the developers plan to take a phased approach toward development, starting with the project's industrial portion and followed down the road with the residential component.

“Missoula is growing. We need housing and we need the ability to create new jobs,” said Jamie Erbacher, a project representative with WGM Group. “We need to provide an opportunity for residents to live where they currently work, or relocate closer to where they work.”

The developers plan to make improvements to the stretch of Deschamps and Moccasin lanes that bound the property. Highway 10 sits to the north and is accessible to the I-90 interchange, making the location ideal for light-industrial development.

But the other half of the project is slated for residential growth. The county's new zoning guide calls for greater density. County planners placed it around eight units per acre. With 60 acres reserved for housing, the property could see several hundred housing units, along with a mix of retail.

“We think this is an important project for meeting the community's goals that have been laid out in the planning efforts over the past several years,” said Smith.

Development Wye

The county is working to complete an infrastructure plan for the Wye and has stated its intent to bring infrastructure the area. But funding to do so is lacking and a number of developers are eager to get started on proposed projects.

Those projects include both residential, industrial and commercial.

“As we see the increment from the Targeted Economic Development District and the infrastructure improved out there, there is opportunity for those commercial uses to expand,” said Erbacher. “I think they'll be coming on line in the future.”

Many see the Wye growing into a bedroom community to Missoula, and development in the area has begun to increase. The county's new land-use element identifies the Highway 93 corridor both north and south of the Wye as a commercial center bounded by planned neighborhoods, residential neighborhoods, working lands and industrial.

But for now, it's all limited by the area's lack of infrastructure.

“We talk about our need for housing, but I think there's an equal and dire need for industrial space as well,” said planning board member Tung Pham. “It would be nice if we could get that (residential portion) going sooner rather than later, but having this be phased allows that area to evolve. Hopefully the infrastructure will catch up and we'll be able to have interesting housing opportunities out there.”