Two rural subdivisions received final approval from Missoula County last week, including one in Target Range and another near Clearwater Junction.

The Dairy subdivision, planned by Tia Tam LLC, will include 14 lots on 10 acres between North and South avenues in the Target Range neighborhood, equaling a density of 1.4 homes per acre.

The property once served as a dairy operation and was grazed by cattle. But changes made to state law by the Montana Legislature now prohibit any consideration of farmland soils when making a recommendation or placing conditions upon a project.

“We do need mid-level housing,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “But it's sad to see this sort of iconic piece of open ground in Target Range go away. It's sad to see these soils filled with concrete. That's just how it goes.”

Both the Dairy subdivision and Clearwater Meadows – planned near Clearwater Junction northeast of Missoula – were recommended for approval by the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board.

Clearwater Meadows includes 20 lots on 200 acres with an expanded buffer around the riparian area spanning Blanchard Creek. That request was submitted by a number of agencies including the Clearwater Resource Council and Five Valleys Audubon.

Clearwater Meadows will include 20 lots on 200 acres.
Clearwater Meadows will include 20 lots on 200 acres.

Property owner John Richards first proposed the project in 2007 and sought 119 lots at the time. The county denied that project due to its density. It did so again in 2011 when the developer proposed a 59-lot subdivision.

The reduction in density and the wider buffer around the riparian area helped it win approval this time around.

“This additional 25 feet of buffer is a compromise. I appreciate the reduction in density,” said Slotnick.

The conditions of approval also address bear-smart measures, including bear-resistant trash bins. The requirement will be included in the covenants but up to the homeowner's association to enforce.

“There are a lot of bear conflicts in this area already,” said commissioner Juanita Vero. “Whatever we can do to address that.”