Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County approved a small industrial subdivision this week and questioned the need for certain regulations in the surrounding area if variances to certain requirements are consistently granted.

Roller Coaster Road LLC, represented by IMEG, won approval to subdivide 11 acres into five lots. The property is zoned light industrial and is located on Roller Coaster Road near the Wye and is bounded by the railroad.

“The applicant proposes to connect to city sewer and provide individual wells on each property,” said county planner Jennie Dixon.

The county had already approved a variance to curb and gutter requirements for the stretch of road that will feed the five lots. However, it initially called for a sidewalk and boulevard along the one side of the street where the industrial properties will sit.

Joe Dehnert with IMEG requested that county waive that requirement and instead allow a paved pathway.

“We don't believe the sidewalk and boulevard fit the commercial and industrial purposes being proposed for the subdivision,” Dehnert said, noting variances granted to similar surrounding industrial subdivisions. “It really doesn't fit with what's being proposed.”

Commissioners expressed frustrating in having regulations that were consistently granted variances, which begged the question over whether the regulations are needed at all. In this case, they agreed that “a sidewalk to nowhere” wasn't necessary.

“I feel like part of our job is to appreciate context,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “We wouldn't be devaluing the essence of a regulation in and of itself if we grant a variance, so long as we're doing so in recognition of a specific context.”

Missoula's lack of industrial space was seen as a potential damper on growth, economic activity and job creation a few short years ago. Since then, a number of industrial subdivisions have been proposed or approved near the Wye.

Dehnert said the lots would be similar to other activities already in place in the area, including storage, parking industrial equipment, and other needs.

“It focuses on workforce industrial activities. It's not a place for a coffee shop,” Dehnert said. “It's strictly focused on workforce capabilities as a staging point for vehicles so employees can coordinate jobs on their businesses on site.”