Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Looking to create a new development district near the Wye to fund the cost of infrastructure, Missoula County has opened its public hearing on the matter and will render a final vote next month.

The Consolidated Planning Board has already recommended approving the new Targeted Economic Development District at the Wye as part of the county's comprehensive development plan.

“The creation of this TEDD will enable us to fund infrastructure, such as sewer, water, transportation, life-safety services and workforce housing,” said Emily Brock, the county's director of lands and economic development. “It will support value-added enterprise that will improve the economic well-being of the area.”

If adopted on Nov. 9, the new district would span around 3,200 acres, both north and south of the I-90 interchange with Highway 93. The land-use element adopted by the county in 2019 identifies the area for a number of uses including industrial, commercial and workforce housing.

The area already is zoned for commercial and industrial uses, and the land-use element calls for around eight dwelling units per acre in areas zoned for residential use.

“There are areas zoned for residential, or planned for residential, with the intent of developing those in a way that's defined as workforce housing,” said Brad Archibald with Pioneer Technological of Butte. “In this situation, because the changes in (state) law allow it, we want to take the opportunity to meet some of the needs of the community.”

While the Wye will eventually evolve into an urban area per the county's growth plans, the infrastructure needed to guide that growth is lacking. The county has identified a number of needs in the area including workforce housing, water, sewer, broadband and transportation, among others.

The new Targeted Economic Development District would generate the funding needed to install the infrastructure, the county has said. If adopted, the new TEDD would be the second placed upon the Wye and would fully surround the original district, created by the county in 2020.

“It gives the county means through tax increment to fund the public infrastructure,” said Archibald. “It's a way to develop the public portion of this site so it can be used the way the citizens of this county want it to be.”

While tax increment alone won't be enough to fund the area's vast infrastructure needs, it could help the county compete for federal grants and other funding sources.

“We can use tax increment dollars as matches for grants,” Archibald added. “We can use it for a lot of things to try and leverage other funding sources.”