by William Skink
I learned a lot last night watching our elected council members explain to the public why they had already made up their minds to support the controversial condo project on 4th street.
I learned the re-zoning being requested by the developer and property owner, Cole Bergquist, would allow commercial use, which means the developer could build an entirely commercial building at the same height of the ROAM student housing downtown if he wanted to.
I learned the city had not secured the conditions they were bragging about in writing yet, like the 20% “affordable housing” fig leaf Councilors all pointed to as the great thing our community is getting for vacating the right of way. The silver lining of the evening, though, was an amendment to get those conditions in writing. A tiny victory.
I learned a member of the public was sent a cease and desist legal threat by Datsopoulos for posting a picture on Facebook depicting a black rectangle as a stand-in for a possible building.
I learned the developer has not produced any renderings of what the project might look like yet, like not one. That, combined with the pathetic passivity of our elected officials, is exasperating those who oppose plopping this condo monstrosity along the riverfront.
I learned that one female Council member (can’t remember which one, but not Jones) is pretty good at throwing shade when she claimed to often be the only person in Hip Strip shops, so they probably will welcome more people living close by. The innuendo is not many people visit Hip Strip shops. What a weird way to support small businesses in Missoula.
I plan on personally visiting each shop on the Hip Strip to make sure they know what this Council member thinks of them and their struggling businesses, just as soon as I figure out who said it.
I also learned about an interesting land-use issue referred to as “spot zoning”. The MSU Extension office has some good information, which you can read here. It appears if the spot zoning conflicts with a city’s master plan, it could be illegal. From the link:
One illegal form of rezoning is spot zoning. This practice gets its name from the appearance of small spots of different zoning districts on a zoning map that otherwise has large contiguous areas in the same zoning district around the spots. To be considered a spot zone, the property, in most cases, must meet the following four criteria:
The area is small compared to districts surrounding the parcel in question.
The new district allows land uses inconsistent with those allowed in the vicinity.
The spot zone would confer a special benefit on the individual property owner not commonly enjoyed by the owners of similar property.
The existence of the spot zone conflicts with the policies in the text of the master plan and the future land use map.
Rezonings that have the four characteristics of spot zoning listed above run a high risk of invalidation if challenged in court and not consistent with the master plan. In some cases, master plans anticipate these relationships and provide for them (for example, a small commercial area may serve a residential neighborhood). In those cases where the master plan supports a relatively small zoning district that is dissimilar to the zoning that surrounds it, this is probably not a spot zone.
Yep, I learned a lot last night, and I know there is more to learn. Stay tuned…