Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A subdivision approved by the city in January plans to file its first phase, and since several conditions have changed over time, the City Council must hold a public hearing as each phase advances.

But under new state law, that won’t be required for future projects, as it’s now deemed a draw on time and more red tape – something the state is trying to undue as it looks to make housing easier to build given the short supply.

“This phased review is something we won’t see on future subdivisions due to state law changes,” said council member Mike Nugent, who chairs the Land Use and Planning Committee. “This was approved prior to those state laws going into effect.”

The West End Farms subdivision by Evergreen Housing Solutions includes 71 acres off Flynn Lane, just north of Hellgate Elementary. The entire project includes 260 lots and 27 acres of open space, along with a mix of single-family homes and townhomes.

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Under rules in place when the project was approved in January, the city may add or amend conditions on the development if new information has become available. State law has since done away with that requirement, though West End Farms remains subject to the old way of doing things.

“This process is no longer required for phases platted within five years of preliminary plat approval,” said city planner Cassie Tripard. “But this subdivision must follow the laws in place at the time it was deemed sufficient for preliminary plat review.”

Since January, the city decided to realign one of the project’s two trails to better serve students at Hellgate Elementary. And with a new grant in hand, the city will use that funding to complete the work.

The initial $13 million BUILD grant received by the city wasn’t sufficient to cover such trail projects.

“We originally went for a much larger grant than what we were awarded for,” said city engineer Troy Monroe. “A lot of improvements that were planned, including trails, were not funded in the first (grant) cycle. But with the (new) grant, we were able to fulfill part of that which was originally planned in this area.”

The city also has stopped creating new lighting districts, though the development will be required to install street lighting. Impact fees are also required ahead of each building permit, and water and sewer fees must be paid between Phase 1 and 2.

The developer will also be required to make improvements to Flynn Lane with each phase of development.

“The Flynn Lane improvements will be staggered as the subdivision builds out, per phase,” said Monroe. “Those improvements are just related to adding in some asphalt, and curb and gutter, and the associated boulevard improvements. It’s just finishing the complete streets. The pedestrians will be using the trail that will be installed by the city as part of the (new) grant.”

While future subdivisions won’t be subject to phased review, West End Farms is. The City Council has set a public hearing on the conditional changes for Nov. 6. However, the review of phased development can’t be denied.

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The Missoula Current is a Montana owned and operated news organization founded in 2015 to help fill the void in local journalism, and we've been free to read ever since. If you would like to read the original article, click here.

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