The consolidated planning board on Tuesday night approved a zoning request for a 19-unit subdivision planned on two acres off River Road, saying it aligned with Missoula's growth policy and goals around housing.

The project, proposed by Robert and Coleen Anderson and represented by the IMEG Corp., cleared the planning board on an 8-1 vote, despite the concerns of the residents in a neighboring development.

While members of the planning board heard those concerns, they agreed the property was suitable for the project and that it met city policies.

“I think this is a good space for a subdivision, both with access to services, access to parks and the slated improvements to River Road coming down the pipeline,” said board member Ellie Costello. “It does feel like we're putting the cart before the horse sometimes with subdivisions, but the infrastructure does come to those spaces.”

City planning staff also recommended approval of the rezone with four variances, including a narrower street and a longer block length. The property is a deep but narrow lot, not unlike a number of other subdivisions already established in the same area.

“The housing policy, from the growth policy, links housing affordability to the ability to achieve more compact development,” said Joe Dehnert with IMEG. “It's one of the driving factors for the developer in this project. The property location is ideal for infill development.”

The layout proposed for the 19-lot development.
The layout proposed for the 19-lot development.

Without approval of the rezone, Dehnert said the project would likely be unfeasible, or the housing units would cost far more.

“This aligns with the city's housing goals and the growth policy while still being economically feasible for the developer,” Dehnert said. “Without the proposed rezone to allow for the higher density development and the proposed variances to accommodate the slightly narrower road, the project would become unaffordable for future residents, or undesirable to developers due to the reduced density.”

The project would set next to the Orchard Homes subdivision, which includes 14 housing units on a property of a similar size. Residents there oppose the project and have cited concerns over parking, congestion and the poor condition of River Road.

“We understand that development is necessary for Missoula, but bad development isn't necessary,” one resident said. “The infrastructure for River Road is so horrendous. To shove 19 houses in an area zoned for 10, I don't know why we have to keep granting variances for homes that destroy other neighborhoods.”

The request for the rezone will now advance to the Missoula City Council for consideration in March.