Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) City planners this week said an increasing number of small infill projects will likely go before officials this year – a necessary step until Missoula completes and approves code and regulatory reform.

Members of the Consolidated Planning Board took up the first such project of the year, a requested rezone to place two-unit townhomes on a smaller lot than what current zoning allows.

The project, proposed by the Montana Northwest Co., looks to develop a small lot near existing services off Curtis Street in the River Road neighborhood.

Members of the planning board described the request as fitting for the area and said code reform would eventually help streamline an otherwise clunky process. It will also make simple projects easier to achieve.

“I'm looking forward to seeing the (code reform) come through in a few years to help streamline projects like this,” said board member Brady Potts. “It will help ease housing burdens when you get infill like this on a more streamlined basis.”

The requested zoning change, which must still go before City Council for final approval, would increase the density of the property from two dwelling units to four. The requested zoning is consistent with the surrounding area and meets the goals of the city's growth policy, planners said.

Current zoning requires a minimum parcel size of 10,000 square feet where the zoning change would reduce that to 5,400 square feet.

“We think it makes a whole lot of sense in this location,” said Ken Jenkins, president of the Montana Northwest Co. “It's an opportunity to increase housing where all the infrastructure is in place.”

City officials last year kicked off the process of code and regulatory reform. Doing so, officials have said, will modernize the city's subdivision regulations, streamline the review and permitting process, and boost the construction of housing across all incomes and in all neighborhoods.

But until the process is complete, members of the planning board and City Council will continue to handle individual rezone requests – a process that extends the timeline for developers and delivery of housing.

City staff said they've been receiving a growing number of such requests.

“We do have a lot of intakes for smaller one- or two-lot rezoning requests,” said city planner Madson Matthias. “I would expect to see more of these.”