Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A housing project planned on 16 acres encumbered by a development agreement with the city is seeking approval to begin work off Mary Jane Boulevard.

Missoula Loft Homes, planned by Miramonte Homes LLC, will include 162 dwelling units in a variety of housing types, including single-family homes and row houses. The project also includes three acres of parkland and is seeking an expedited review.

“The ability for a developer to request expedited review is in the Missoula city subdivision regulations and state law,” said planning supervisor Cassie Tripard. “City Council has a 35-day working deadline to approve or deny the subdivision from the time the application is deemed sufficient.”

To qualify for expedited review, a project must occur in city limits, comply with existing zoning without any variances, and connect to public infrastructure. Missoula Loft Homes meets all the criteria, Tripard said.

Current zoning in the area allows for all residential building types, along with some commercial. And while growth in the greater Mullan area has raised concern over the capacity of Hellgate School, state law doesn't allow such factors alone to be considered in review.

“Montana state law doesn't allow for subdivisions to be denied solely based on school capacity and impacts to schools,” Tripard said.

Several other projects have already been approved for the area and others are under review, including the 600-unit Icon Apartments, West End Homes, which will provide 260 units and Sapphire Place, which includes 300 units. Representatives from the school district have said they're running out of room and may not be able to accommodate more students.

Council member Mike Nugent, who chairs the Land Use and Planning Committee, said City Council will begin looking at school impacts this year.

“We're going to let staff do a little research on the questions that have been asked,” Nugent said. “We'll have that discussion outside of the approval of any specific subdivision. Some of the stuff we're talking about isn't what we use for review criteria right now.”

Missoula Loft Homes phasing and layout.
Missoula Loft Homes phasing and layout.

The city and county of Missoula have invested more than $15 million in infrastructure in the greater Mullan area, which includes the Sxwtpqyen Neighborhood Master Plan. In doing so, they dedicated several thousand acres for city growth, including the housing needed to accommodate more than 6,000 residents.

The city in 2019 also approved a development agreement for the Missoula Loft Homes property. The project now proposed aligns with all permitted uses and building types in the agreement.

“The developer sees the need out here and wanted to bring these to fruition as soon as possible,” said Joe Dehnert with IMEG, which is representing the builder. “It makes a lot of sense out here, but it also aligns with the adjacent development. We think this will definitely fit into the character here.”