Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Calling it a rare request, members of the Consolidated Planning Board recommended approval of a zoning change that would allow fewer homes on a parcel east of the city while maintaining a bee pollination business.

Property owner Bertram Wustner, represented by IMEG, looks to rezone 27 acres off Deer Creek Road. Current zoning allows two residential units per acre while the new zoning designation would allow for roughly one unit per acre.

The change would allow animal agriculture on the property, or Wustner's bee business.

Lauren Stevens, a senior planner with the city, said the request adheres to Missoula's current land-use designation and would create a standard zoning district in the area. The property has a number of constraints that prevent higher-density development, she added.

“This rezone will limit the potential density in an area without access to sewer and water, complete streets, transit service and other urban services,” said Stevens. “It will also limit density in close proximity to existing power transmission lines and a high-pressure petroleum pipeline.”

The property is hemmed in by a number of uses including Interstate 90, the Clark Fork River, transmission lines, the railroad and a high-pressure petroleum line.

The parcel was annexed into the city several years ago when another development was proposed but never took place. Some members of the planning board don't feel the parcel should be in the city.

“The staff report said it may have limited constraints to this level of development. I'd say it has major constraints,” said board member Dave Loomis. “It's going back to the appropriate use at the appropriate time.”


Joe Dehnert with IMEG said the constraints near the property warrant the zoning change, even if it reduces the potential for future housing. He said the bee business is a good fit and the zoning change would permit more agricultural buildings.

“You don't typically see applicants down-zoning, or asking for less density. I think it fits out here,” Dehnert said.

The number of projects before the planning board have been fewer in recent months. The city late last year began its code-reform project to modernize the city's subdivision regulations and to streamline the construction of housing.

The Legislature may also adopt new policies or regulations that could impact city code. But neither would influence the down-zone requested for Deer Creek Road, Stevens said.

“Our long-range planning team is spearheading our code reform process. It's still pretty early stages,” she said. “There's an update to the growth policy happening in tandem to the code reform, which will reevaluate the land-use designation map to ensure things are still appropriate in certain areas. But there's no indicator in what direction those decisions will go in.”