While the pace of development west of Reserve Street could put a dent in Missoula’s housing needs, it’s also raising concerns over air quality and dust, prompting the city to push for stronger monitoring and enforcement.
The concerns surfaced on Wednesday during a hearing before the Land Use and Planning Committee regarding the next two phases of the Remington Flats subdivision north of Mullan Road in the Sxwtpqyen neighborhood.
While the dust in question likely stems from an adjacent development, the developers of Remington Flats found themselves answering council questions.
“We’re covering little bits at a time, and we’ll continue to do that,” said a representative of 406 Development. “But the best way to get rid of that dust is to put houses on them. The faster we can get to final plat and get it done, the faster we’ll get rid of dust.”
Remington Flats was approved in seven phases in 2020 and, once fully developed, will provide 152 residential lots. The final plat for Phase 1 has not been filed but will be soon, and the developers are now lining up for the next two phases.
Under state law, the City Council can determine whether any changes have taken place that carry adverse effects that require added conditions. Given the soils in the area, dust and air quality have become a concern as construction plays out.
“There have been complaints in the area, they suspect due to mass grading,” said city planner Lauren Stevens. “This clay soil is prone to that dust. We looked at this in our review and there wasn’t necessarily new information as to require additional conditions.”
City staff said it already has the tools at hand to address air quality and sedimentation, though it “may not have done as much enforcement as it might otherwise.”
The city may now consider adding strong language regarding air quality and dust abatement as a condition of future projects. It could also work closer with developers during periods of mass grading so the health department can monitor the impacts.
The City Council will discuss the issue in depth next week.
“That area is going to see a lot of development under our current plans, which is great but also brings problems,” said council member Amber Sherrill. “We need to be proactive. Now we know what we know.”