Growth policy review leads Missoula planning council to request zoning update

As the city wraps up its mandatory review of Missoula’s growth policy, members of the planning council are urging officials to implement the plan’s vision through zoning, saying anything less will leave the document more. than an incomplete story.

The city adopted its current Our Missoula growth policy in 2015, setting a vision for land use, planning and growth over the next 30 years. Under state law, the document must be reviewed every five years and updated as necessary.

City planner Ben Brewer said the review suggested a number of updates, including current community data based on new census information. The document also needs to be streamlined, Brewer said.

“This is an ambitious policy and there are clearly ways to clarify it and make it more usable,” he said. “It’s not that the actions are not implemented, but there are redundant actions that say the same thing but in different ways. It would help to clarify what we want to accomplish and how we say it. “

Members of the Consolidated Planning Board this week praised Missoula’s growth policy for its vision and scope. Yet several have suggested that the growth policy remains unfinished five years after its adoption, as zoning never followed.

Without this zoning, they said, the document is little more than an incomplete vision of what Missoula should or could be. One-off zoning, often carried out at the moment around a particular project, is not enough, they said.

“The most important thing that we can do with the city’s growth policy is actually to implement it through the zoning of the land,” said Neva Hassanein, member of the board of directors. “The last step in moving from vision to practice has never been taken. “

Other planning council members agreed and expressed frustration at what they see as a permanent oversight. According to Brewer, the city carried out a “major zoning overhaul” in 2009 and adopted the new growth policy in 2015.

But the city still operates under the old zoning.

“It’s a conversation we’ve had many times on the board: the code meeting policy,” said Sean McCoy, board member. “We have a wealth of good policies, but we need our code and our zoning to catch up with us. I think this is a theme that we have been pushing towards the staff and the county since I have been a member of this council. We will continue to push this area, as it’s obvious at this point that we really need it. “

The problem has become urgent as the city and county both prepare for growth around the urban fringe, or where city and county come together. This is where much of Missoula’s future growth is anticipated.

The county is preparing to zone its new map of US lands with respect to this pari-urban area, and that’s something the planning board will be addressing in the coming months. But some council members believe the areas on the city’s land use map still conflict with the county map and this needs to be resolved with the city’s zoning.

“The county is now doing the right thing because it takes its land use (map) and zoning it,” Hassanein said. “In this growth policy, for the city, we never did the zoning that you are about to do for the county. We continue to receive requests to change this zoning, but no one systematically changes the zoning in the city.