by William Skink
I am not surprised by the density of housing developments popping up in different pockets of Missoula because the sardine can master planning being done by Florida consultants Dover and Kohl says that’s what should happen.
In Grant Creek, local opposition to a 400-unit apartment complex led to the planning board scuttling the project. My parents live in this area and were opposed to this development, which makes for fun dinner time conversation.
Don’t be like my mom and dad and just ignore me when I say the sardine can master planners are coming for a neighborhood near you.
For example, Lower Miller Creek NIMBYs are lawyering up to fight an announced apartment complex, but that ship has already sailed:
Miller Creek residents don’t want a 27-unit apartment complex in Lower Middle Creek, but they might not have a choice.
Ward 3 council members John Contos and Stacie Anderson have received dozens of call and emails about the apartments, but council has no say and the developer is legally allowed to build them.
“Unfortunately, at this juncture there is no opportunity for community or even city council input because this issue came before a prior council and they approved the zoning that is currently in place,” said Anderson.
Some residents have hired an attorney to see if there’s a way to pause construction.
And toward my neck of the valley, plans to do some planning are brewing:
Plans to guide nearly 20 years of development in a growing area of Missoula continue to move forward, offering what planners hope will provide an array of transportation and housing options that could keep a lid on rising costs.
Missoula city and county planners joined consultants on Tuesday night to offer members of the Consolidated Planning Board an in-depth look at the Mullan Area Master Plan. After four hours, the planning board opted to vote on the plan later in October.
Gee, I wonder who could be helping the planners plan? Could it be?
Planners are looking to avoid urban sprawl and provide housing in what many are calling the “missing middle,” which includes more affordable options ranging from condos to apartments.
“What we’re trying to do is reintroduce all these different options in the middle,” said Jason King, a planning consultant with Dover, Kohl & Partners. “You have to couple a physical plan like this with a housing plan that ensures affordability. That’s work that’s still ahead, but we’re hoping to revisit that and encourage that.”
Current growth projections estimate that Missoula will add between 1,000 and 2,000 people a year. The pressure on housing is already high given the city’s limited supply, and housing and land costs have continued to rise over much of the past decade.
“This next round of housing is going to be more expensive by every indicator,” said King. “In terms of affordability, what we’re offering is affordability by design. A lot more units will help satisfy your affordable housing problem, for a period.”
I added all that emphasis because… 1. of course it’s Dover Kohl and 2. isn’t it cool the guy planning our future has the last name KING and 3. what is exactly meant by that for a period qualifier?
Meanwhile, the narrative coming from realtors, like former Council person Annelise Hedahl, is that it’s a hyper-inflationary frenzy out there in buyer land where a Facebook person is eying Missoula over California because she can drop serious over-market cash on a house:
Hedahl has a client who works for Facebook who decided she can work from home and is trying to buy a house in Missoula.
“Her budget is pretty healthy,” Hedahl said. “She said she doesn’t think she’s ever going back to (Facebook headquarters in California), but she doesn’t plan on retiring. She might commute back and forth and maybe Airbnb the house or rent it and keep it as a summer home.”
While NIMBYs do their thing, and realtors ride the pandemic wave, our very woke County Commissioners are using their power to fight systemic racism by fiddling with how the County rates vendors it does business with. Not only does this move signal how very woke they are, this preemptive strike should insulate our county leaders from future accusations, should they arise.
Which, if the only people who can afford to live here are silicon valley refugees, they won’t.