Wednesday, September 12

Doing something about Missoula's growth

Missoula is an attractive mountain town and people are moving in ... lots of people. While this is an inevitable reality, the question of how to accommodate this growth is pretty controversial. Up to this point, Missoula has pretty much accepted the standard practice of creating sprawling low-density subdivisions. There is still plenty of rural land stretching west of town toward Frenchtown, but it's starting to become clear that this pattern is not sustainable in the long term. Nor does it maintain the local charm that drives people here in the first place.

The Missoulian ran a story today about the difficulties local planners face in providing enough housing for the influx, and housing people can afford, without the undesirable consequences of sprawl.

From the article:

"There are few places inside the city limits that provide enough space for multiple single-family homes anymore, Millar said. Missoula is bursting at the seams in that respect. So, developers are building in the green fields in the urban fringe.

One option is encouraging a mix of housing products such as condos and townhomes, Millar said. That could prevent Missoula from encroaching as quickly on Frenchtown and Lolo.

Millar foresees a potential struggle when it comes to defining what is considered “the country.”

Where sewer lines are extended to outlying areas, local planners intend to allow developers to pack more homes into subdivisions. That means areas many Montanans for considered “the country” will now be the city."

I can't say I understand all of the politics involved in Missoula's planning, but the impression that I get from the article is that city officials feel a vague distaste for "sprawl" yet they are not really willing to do anything about it. There is a difference between speculating about options for encouraging density and pursuing those options, especially when the clock is ticking all of the time.


jhwygirl said...

You got it in your last paragraph there.

Missoula, from what I have seen, loves to talk about sprawl and planning and what to do.

But acting on it is what is lacking.

One of the city council members recently lamented upon the lack of actual planning that is going on.

Perhaps this next election can help foster an atmosphere of productive proactivity in planning rather than the flying by the seat of their pants approach that has been going on now for at least the past 6 years.

Daniel Nairn said...

thanks for the feedback.

I know little about planning, and even less about Missoula city politics. So a bit of confirmation goes a long way for me.

I've seen your posts on the city council forum, so I assume that you have a good grasp on the situation here.

jhwygirl said...

ha. NO one has a good grasp on what is going on there...

There are excellent opportunities to learn a good big, as the city is rewriting the zoning regs. That will take a good study of the comprehensive plan and putting it to the enforcing end (the regs).

That kind of stuff doesn't get done often.

If you have the time, you might'll give you a good all-around experience with planning and city politics.

I really enjoy the thoughfulness of your posts.

Daniel Nairn said...

I'd love to hear more about these opportunities to learn. What is there to attend?

(by the way, I would ask this in an email, but I couldn't find yours on the 4&20 Blackbirds site)