Viewpoint: Grant Creek residents oppose zoning change for more housing
Grant Creek residents are working proactively with City Engineering and Transportation staff to improve safety of lower Grant Creek Road, an area serving several motels, restaurants, the Town Pump and tourist-oriented traffic, in addition to 635 residences.
The Grant Creek Fire Risk Task Force is meeting regularly with local and state fire and emergency management agencies to plan for fire emergencies, including evacuation using only one road. These efforts will benefit present and future residents, tenants, guests and tourists.
The proposed rezoning of the old gravel pit in lower Grant Creek will confound and multiply these issues and the risks attending them. Depending on how buildings might be laid out, the existing zoning will allow 200 to 340 apartment units on one parcel fronting on Expo Parkway and 125 to 155 homes on 5,400 square foot lots on the larger northern parcel, for a total of up to 495 units.
Rezoning the two parcels, as requested by KJA Development, would allow up to 1,185 apartment units, all market rate rentals. (However, site limitations such as pipeline and power line easements will reduce the space for these numbers of units.) Grant Creek residents overwhelmingly oppose the rezoning proposal, which could triple the number of residences north of the I-90 bottleneck. 495 new units under existing zoning would almost double the number of residential units in the Grant Creek area. The increased traffic associated with 495 units would be substantial.
Nonetheless the Friends of Grant Creek (FOGC) and hundreds of residents have consistently supported development under the existing zoning.
Because of I-90’s location, there is only one way in and one way out for residents, tourists and others, making this area very different from other Missoula valleys. This will not change for a very long time. The City advises that it lacks funds to improve the north-bound lanes of Grant Creek Road, a site of increasing frequency of collisions generally associated with left hand turns. Most new traffic coming home to new housing units on Expo Parkway will be making left hand turns. These hazards will affect new residents as well as existing residents of Grant Creek.
FOGC encourages development under existing zoning but believes that high-density apartment complexes should be built closer to the urban core, a priority which is repeatedly emphasized in Missoula’s housing and growth policies. Adding 1,400 (or more) cars to existing traffic will cause congestion, accidents and complications with fire evacuation. See the Grant Creek Fire Risk Team presentation to the Missoula Planning Board, which rejected the rezoning on April 19.