Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A request for a zoning change in the West Broadway corridor would allow more housing if and when the property is redeveloped in the future while permitting Missoula Youth Homes to consolidate its offices and remain in place.

The Missoula Consolidated Planning Board on Tuesday recommended that the City Council approve the request, which removes old zoning and replaces it with zoning adopted in the city's growth policy and the West Broadway Master Plan.

City planning supervisor Cassie Trippard said the change will allow Missoula Youth Homes to remain in place and combine offices with Dan Fox Family Care. It would also allow redevelopment with high-density residential and commercial uses.

“While there are not currently plans to redevelop the site, getting standard zoning in place allows for redevelopment in the future,” said Trippard. “New zoning allows for housing if the site is redeveloped in the future. New zoning would allow for twice as much housing to be developed in the future than is permitted under the current zoning district.”

Missoula Youth Homes provides care for children facing abuse, neglect, emotional trauma and other issues. While it no longer houses youth on site, consolidating administrative offices at its location will help the agency save money.

It also gives the organization options in the future.

“We do not currently have youth staying at the emergency shelter,” said Amy Schaer, the organization's CEO. “We did close that this summer due to staffing shortages and some financial issues with the program. But we do have other places for those youth to be. Moving all of our offices under one roof is what we hope to do.”

The property covers around 37,000 square feet, providing ample room for future development. The city adopted its West Broadway Master Plan two years ago this month, which overs 15 acres in the corridor and emphasizes housing, retail, restaurants and a greater number of transportation options.

Among other things, the plan calls for roughly 130 market-rate townhomes and apartments, and 70 affordable housing units targeted for a range of incomes. The area is deemed a downtown gateway.

“Downtown gateways contribute to a sense of entry to the urban center,” Trippard said. “These areas are in transition, evolving from an auto-oriented character to a more urban experience, and will include commercial and residential developments with a variety of building forms.”

Members of the planning board supported the request and recommended City Council approval.

“It fits what we want with uses in that area,” said board member Rick Hall.

Board president Sean Patrick-McCoy also supported the measure, though he expressed concern that Missoula Youth Homes could sell the property for redevelopment many years down the road.

“Beyond that, it does seem to make sense,” he said.