by Travis Mateer
I had meant to write more specifically about the hour long conversation T.J. McDermott had earlier this week, on election day, with the public Facebook group that focuses on Reserve Street issues, but I think it’s more important to ask the question posed in the title of this post.
Before getting to why I think you need to know who is behind Spencer Properties LLC, the controversy developing over the Sheriff-said/city-said accusations about what’s being built by the jail is important to understand first, so here’s Jean Curtiss taking her shot (on behalf of T.J. McDermott?) against the city and its partners behind the Trinity Apartment Complex by the jail (emphasis mine):
Sheriff McDermott was asked what he needed to protect the detention center and his officers. He had two, very clear, requests. He needed a new, dedicated access to the back side of the detention center as the project would cut off his current access. His second request was for a secure, fenced parking lot for the officers in that same area.
The City and HomeWord agreed to those reasonable requests. But apparently, nothing was put in writing with the transfer of the land.
Now, HomeWord and Blue Line have backed out of those promises saying they do not have enough money to meet those promises because the cost of the project went up. If you google Trinity Project Missoula MT, the website clearly states there will be no local tax dollars used to fund this project.
While costs for construction have surely gone up, Curtiss is correct–that is NOT the reason why the supposed promises can’t be honored.
Jean Curtiss’ op-ed garnered a response signed by County Commissioners, the city of Missoula, Homeword and BlueLine Development. Here they are essentially calling Jean Curtiss a liar:
Curtiss claimed Homeword, BlueLine and the City made promises regarding the construction of Trinity that were not kept. She alleged that the partners agreed to construct a new, dedicated road to access the back side of the Missoula County Detention Center and build a secured fenced parking lot in the same area. This is not true.
What is true is that when the Trinity development partners – the Missoula Housing Authority, BlueLine Development and Homeword – were asked to move from the northwest corner to the south, we committed to ensuring land would remain available for the construction of an access road. We also agreed to changes to our entrance and access to ensure the parking lot off Mullan had a drive-over curb so the Sheriff’s Office could have a second access from Mullan Road via the Trinity site. All of that is done, and promises kept.
So, what the hell is ACTUALLY going on here?
Back in September, the Missoula Current “reported” on the relocation of the Transitional Safe Outdoor Space. There’s just one problem with this article–there is no explanation WHY the TSOS had to move, just this (emphasis mine):
With stories of transformation coming from several past residents of a homeless camp poised on the south side of Missoula – and with winter closing in – the city and county are now looking to relocate one camp to a more accessible area of the city.
That requires a public hearing by the City Council, though it has no vote in a plan to move the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS) from Highway 93, where it now sits on private land, to a new location off West Broadway near the Missoula County Detention Center.
This is where Spencer Properties comes in.
As you can see below, the publicly available information via the Montana Cadastral site shows the primary owner of 4285 HWY 93 S is Spencer Properties. This is the address of the first location of the TSOS.
I cut off the screenshot because the address associated with Spencer Properties turns out to be the residential address of Miriam Richmond, the same residential address associated with Nate Richmond, CEO of BlueLine Development.
On Tuesday, T.J. McDermott shed light on why the TSOS had to be relocated. Apparently, according to McDermott, the TSOS lost their lease (I can sympathize). And why would that kind of decision be made, a decision to end the lease of a Transitional Safe Outdoor Space?
I feel like mentioning a golf course development scheme might start overloading readers at this point, but longtime readers of this blog will recall my coverage of the plan–cooked up by the crisis mill levy losers–to build thousands of housing units where Larchmont currently sits. While that plan imploded, the time for the TSOS at its original location was never meant to be long term, since it was being funded with short-term ARPA funds.
So, the TSOS had to find a new home, and we all know how easy it is to find a location for serving homeless clients (that’s sarcasm). With options limited, and political capital all directed at passing the mill levy, plopping the TSOS where the Sheriff wanted his access road probably seemed like the only feasible solution.
The public has no idea about this because no one is supposed to say the quiet part out loud (Spencer Properties LLC), not even the media. How do I know this? Because I spoke with a certain former NBC Montana reporter and was told about the blowback she received for looking into this two years ago. Part of that blowback entailed a certain ED of a certain non-profit saying defamatory things about me, but that’s a post for another day.
At the time I didn’t know about the proposed land-swap idea being cooked up, targeting Larchmont in a deal that would have placed a NEW golf course where the homeless camp now sits. This land is not suitable for other forms of development because it’s in a floodplain and not hooked up to city sewer. I found this out after a chat with a former Health Department contact of mine who used to work in the Water Quality District.
All this Public/Private scheming has been transpiring outside the public’s view because an LLC shroud has effectively kept Nate Richmond’s company’s incestuous local connections from being exposed. Those connections include temporarily employing the daughter of the director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency as the project manager of the Trinity project (2021). From the link (emphasis mine):
The facility will also include an on-site navigation center to provide 24-hour resources, from food security to medication support.
“It’ll have a multitude of resources within that building to help this population be successful,” Keenan Whitt, the project manager with BlueLine Development, said last year. “It’s an opportunity for us to partner with area nonprofits and service providers and create a model that doesn’t duplicate current services in the community.”
The project is owned 50-50 between Homeword and the Missoula Housing Authority and has emerged as a potential model on how to cull resources to help construct affordable housing.
What does this mean for the political player who is NO LONGER playing ball with his former political collaborators, Mr. outgoing Sheriff, T.J. McDermott?
We’ll get to that in another post. I think this is enough, for now.
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