Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Now that Lolo is getting a new school, a team of developers are seeking changes to the county's land-use map in hopes of providing housing and some commercial space on the former school property.

The Consolidated Planning Board on Tuesday night unanimously recommended the changes for approval. And while the developer doesn't have any specific plans just yet, amending the land-use map would open the door to future development.

“The request isn't to zone the property, but to amend the land-use designations, which are used to help guide future development and growth on the property,” said Missoula County planner Lauren Ryan.

MCG Vines LLC is seeking a change from a public land designation to residential, commercial and open space. The public land designation served the old Lolo school, but now that the school has moved, the designation serves as a barrier to redevelopment of the property.

“Since the school is being relocated, the public land-use designated is no longer appropriate for the area and it limits future uses,” said Ryan.

If approved by Missoula County, the new designation would allow 16 acres of residential, 13 acres of open space and 14 acres of general commercial.

It would also allow a density of 16 dwelling units per acre. Commercial offerings would front Highway 93 on property just south of the old school, according to the county's map.

“The (county's land-use map) itself is not a regulatory document, but is used as a legal framework for future plans and regulations,” said Ryan. “The growth policy also helps assist in guiding future infrastructure investment.”

The proposed land use map includes 16 acres of residential (purple), 13 acres of open space (green), and 14 acres of general commercial (pink).
The proposed land use map includes 16 acres of residential (purple), 13 acres of open space (green), and 14 acres of general commercial (pink).

While the proposed changes have the backing of the Lolo Community Council and the Consolidated Planning Board, concerns over Lolo's lack of infrastructure linger. The community's water and wastewater system are already near capacity.

As Lolo continues to grow, the infrastructure deficiency will need to be addressed.

“This is an appropriate area for Lolo to grow and be at greater density,” said Ryan. “But there's a water and sewer capacity issue that will need to be resolved before any high-density development can occur.”

Karl Treadwell with 406 Engineering said sewer and water will play a central role in any development plans.

“This proposal would define land use for the future if and when the Lolo wastewater and water systems can get expanded,” said Treadwell. “We don't have any specific development plans right now. We're just looking at some residential development and we're going to be looking more and more into the availability of utilities as we move forward.”

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