The August 5 article regarding the proposed rezoning of 2920 Expo Parkway omitted basic facts relevant to the discussion. Specifically, the author failed to mention that the current zoning allows 344 multi-dwelling units, 158 single family housing and mixed-use development – an increase of 502 units at one location that is already plagued by traffic issues.
That current zoning was done in compliance with the Grant Creek Plan Neighborhood Plan and is supported by the Friends of Grant Creek. The article also failed to mention the other important fact – the number of units that could be built under the rezoning as requested: 1195 at a density of 45 units per acre.
The author mistakenly analogizes the granting of a height variance by the Board of Adjustment to the denial by the Planning Board of a rezoning request — a rezoning request that would more than double the current zoning density at 2920 Expo Parkway. In the case of the variance, the Board of Adjustments allowed the fully designed and vetted 200 (not 400) unit Villagio Apartments, an affordable housing complex being developed by Blue Line Development and the Missoula Housing Authority, to be 4 stories rather than 3.
Much is made in the article that the neighbors of the rezoning protested where the Northside neighbors did not protest the Villagio variance. It fails to recognize the difference, both substantively and procedurally between the two proceedings. Protests are specifically authorized in the rezoning process; whereas they are not allowed in Board of Adjustment.
It is also important to note that in the Board of Adjustment proceeding, a fully rendered and vetted site plan of the Villagio Apartments was available and had been available to the neighbors for some time. Nothing like that exists in this rezoning process. Unlike the subdivision review process which would be more appropriate for development of the magnitude proposed for 2920, a rezoning does not provide an opportunity for any meaningful impact on the design, quality of the development.
Aside from the zoning codes providing for citizen comment and protest, the Missoula City Council has long encouraged neighborhood involvement, formalizing that through its Neighborhood Council Program. Grant Creek has had an active neighborhood council and it was only when the Grant Creek Neighborhood Council could not meet that the Friends of Grant Creek ( FOGC) resurrected itself in order to provide community comment on the rezoning.
Throughout the City and County people care about their neighborhoods and their safety and are likely to oppose rezonings they deem as negatively affecting their safety. But that does not mean they are not willing to accept a reasonable share of additional housing to meet the needs of the community in accordance with the City’s goal of having needed housing equitably distributed throughout the City.
Relevant to that, the City’s that Growth Plan makes a Residential Allocation of 1,200 new units for Grant Creek over the 20-year period from 2015-2035. The proposed rezoning would satisfy nearly all of that with apartments only in this one site, without requirement for any further planning or review.
As Planning Board member Neva Hassanein pointed out there needs to be planning. Density at all costs will not create neighborhoods and communities that anyone wants to live in. Apartment dwellers, as well as homeowners, of all economic levels, deserve safe, sustainable neighborhoods with some amenities. The developers of the Villagio seem to appreciate that.
The Planning Board was right in denying the rezoning request taking into consideration, as they did, the required factors and criteria in the Growth Plan and the City’s zoning ordinances.
Mae Nan Ellingson, Missoula