Josh Martin May Be Gone, But Is New Urbanism Here To Stay In Missoula?

by William Skink

I remain curious about the circumstances that caused Josh Martin to take the Development Director position in Missoula, and then turn it down a month after his hiring had been announced.

After my blog post scooped local media about Josh Martin turning down the director position in Missoula, I got another link emailed to me about why Martin left Palm Beach after just 17 months. From the link:

Martin hasn’t spoken publicly about the reasons for his early departure. But Town Manager Kirk Blouin said Martin was dispirited by what he perceived to be a lack of community support for reform.

“He felt disrespected and a lack of support,” said Blouin, who initially refused to accept Martin’s resignation and tried, along with the elected officials, zoning commissioners and others, to convince him to stay.

What kind of “reform” led to a lack of support and Martin’s departure? Apparently New Urbanism reforms that promote density and assumes the urban centers of tomorrow don’t need things like parking spaces for cars. Further in the article this point is clearly articulated:

A small but vocal group of residents, including Zoning Commissioner Carol LeCates, were alarmed by Martin’s recommendation to hire the nonprofit Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) as a consultant to help with the reform.

LeCates has said the urbanism “movement” calls for the elimination of parking and density requirements, which is contrary to the goals of the town’s comprehensive plan. Martin has said the town could listen to what CNU had to say without being obligated to accept all — or even any — of its recommendations.

I found another article from November of last year that gets more into the concerns about New Urbanism and the money Martin likes to steer to consulting firms he brings along from town to town:

Is Palm Beach ready for New Urbanism?

Zoning Director Josh Martin is paving a path toward zoning code reform, and he’s proposing the town join hands with two firms known for their expertise in new urbanist town planning.

Among its tenets, New Urbanism emphasizes walkable blocks and streets, environmental sustainability and accessible public spaces.

The question is how that would apply to Palm Beach, a built-out town where active redevelopment in established neighborhoods is a hot-button issue.

Martin is recommending the town hire the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Miami architectural firm of Duany Plater-Zybwerk as consultants at a total cost of up to $250,000

He told zoning commissioners Monday that’s a bargain-basement price for two firms of their caliber, whose combined research and expertise he said would normally cost the town closer to $900,000.

According to this article it sounds like Martin also brought in this Congress for the New Urbanism for “consulting” in Charleston:

Commissioner Carol LeCates dissented in the board’s 6-1 decision.

“I have concerns about New Urbanism,” she said. “I’m having trouble marrying many of [its] tenets with what Palm Beach is and what we want to do here.”

LeCates asked how two of those tenets — elimination of requirements for density and parking — would apply to Palm Beach.

Martin said that, if the town wants to exclude parking on Worth Avenue, for example, from the reform discussion, it can do that.

“We can pick and choose what we want to use CNU for,” he said.

Congress for the New Urbanism has done work in Charleston, S.C., which has the nation’s oldest historic district, and in other preservation-minded communities, he said.

Resident Simon Taylor said he doesn’t oppose zoning reform. But he said the Congress for the New Urbanism and Duany Plater-Zybwerk will use Palm Beach as a “lab rat community” for their own national agenda, which he described as “pro-density” and “anti-car.”

“This is a trojan horse of pro business,” Taylor said.

Josh Martin is allegedly returning to Palm Beach for personal family reasons, according to a press release from the Mayor’s office:

The man hired by the City of Missoula to lead the Development Services office has decided not to take the job.

According to a press release from the city, Josh Martin has “elected to remain in Florida because of family issues that arose since he accepted the position.”

Martin was supposed to start in March after leaving a job in Florida. According to the Palm Beach Daily News, Martin has accepted a job as a developer consultant in Palm Beach.

While Josh Martin won’t be leading the crusade to implement the tenets of his New Urbanism cult on Missoula, we are already well on our way toward elements of this vision being implemented.

Martin’s buddies at Dover Kohl have already designed the downtown master plan, and that plan, which calls for increased density in the urban core, has already been used to justify the 4th street condo project.

Mayor Engen and his cadre of gentrifiers won’t be deterred by the loss of Martin. I’ll be keeping a close eye on whoever is next selected to implement the sardine can master plan for urban Missoula. Stay tuned…

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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10 Responses to Josh Martin May Be Gone, But Is New Urbanism Here To Stay In Missoula?

  1. Abby says:

    Single family zoning is racist to the core and no amount of cloaking it in anti-gentrification buzz words will change that. The landowning class must protect those precious property values…

    • I take it you don’t have kids.

      • Abby says:

        I do and I live in apartment and it’s great living in a neighborhood that has a variety of housing. No one’s trying to ban detached houses, just saying rich people should not be allowed to ban apartments in their neighborhoods.

        • I hope you continue reading this blog so you can better understand how pushing increased density is not about creating better, more affordable living situations.

          do you live in an apartment with kids by choice, or because you can’t afford to buy a home in Missoula?

  2. Abbt says:

    Gwen Jones and Bryan Van Blahhberg use zoning to block anything other than single family detached houses in the neighborhoods (U district & Rattlesnake) where their wealthy donors live. So the multifamily housing gets concentrated in the Northside (where I’m at) and Franklin to the Fort. If someone tried to build my complex on Hilda or Helen or whatever it’s be illegal. (I’m fine in my apartment ty very much)

    • I hear what you’re saying. What I am saying is the push for density in those neighborhoods won’t be multi family housing, for the reasons you mentioned, it will be condos or up scale ADUs. I think the 4th street condo project is good evidence of that.

      I more appreciate this kind of commentary over your initial claim that single family zoning is racist, a difficult argument to make in a community that is something like 90% white.

      • Abby says:

        “a difficult argument to make in a community that is something like 90% white.”

        In the rich neighborhoods it’s more like 98%. Meanwhile Lowell and Franklin have sizeable Native populations. This isn’t a coincidence– it’s a product of zoning.

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