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Missoula County: Amendment for wider roads, more sidewalks reflects new urban boundary

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Posted at 3:19 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 17:19:06-05

Certain areas of the Missoula Valley will require wider roads and more sidewalks to reflect changes in the county’s land-use plan under an amendment approved on Thursday.

The changes impact areas of East Missoula, along Mullan Road and portions of Target Range, among others. The amendment does not change existing zoning, nor does it increase permitted density.

Rather, county planner Christine Dascenzo said, the update only changes how the county distinguishes for urban standards by calling for wider roads and more sidewalks. Areas designated as rural would require less infrastructure.

The boundary will no longer be defined by the city’s wastewater service area, she said.

“It would no longer use that boundary to determine the urban area,” Dascenzo said. “Instead, it would use the land-use designations that were recently adopted in 2019. We’re not changing or increasing density anywhere. We’re just changing the method for requiring different levels of infrastructure.”

Certain areas of Target Range and Orchard homes would fall within the urban boundary, though most of it will remain outside the new designation.

The county agreed to delay the amendment for a month in January after members of the Target Range Sewer and Water District objected. But Dascenzo said the county has since addressed the district’s concerns.

“This is not zoning regulations and would not effect zoning regulations there or anywhere else in the county,” she said. “The district’s concerns have been addressed, due to the fact that the density would not increase due to the proposal.”

Missoula County completed a land-use mapping project last year and amended its growth policy. The update – the first since 1975 – focused on areas of the county abutting the city.

The effort began in 2016 when commissioners adopted the growth policy and identified a new land-use strategy as a high priority. The area in the plan included much of the Missoula Valley and locations facing the greatest pressure from development.

“We want infrastructure that’s going to support the densities of land use that’s allowable,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “It would counterproductive to require lesser infrastructure in areas that really ought to have urban style infrastructure.”