Friday, June 12, 2009

Gathering Storm Over Zoning Rewrite

Who cares about zoning? Well... really everyone does since it can have the power to control so much of our everyday environment. If there is not enough parking on a high demand street or residents are not allowed to own livestock, zoning probably has something to do with the situation. But does anyone other than lawyers and developers actually spend the time to read and understand zoning regulations? The answer is no. A city council member I talked with hadn't even gone through the zoning document.

Missoula is undergoing a zoning rewrite; a process that has already spanned almost two years and is now at the stage where the Missoula City Council is ready to start weighing in on the topic. The current plan passed out of the planning board unanimously. Organization has begun on both sides of the debate to try and win the first round coming up on June 22nd when the city council will spend most of their time discussing the zoning proposal and listening to public comment.

In a nut shell the new zoning cleans up a set of dysfunctional regulations of cobbled together over many years into a more streamlined document. My understanding is that the current version has been watered down heavily from an original starting point that put significant emphasis on multi-use, transit oriented development, and infill; all things to create a more dense urban-core while slowing the spread of sprawl.

Their are gaps in the current zoning that need to be filled. For example, the current section of Higgins South of the bridge know as the Hip Strip (as one can see by the link, a gathering spot for hipsters both young and old) could not be rebuilt if it where to burn down because it violates the current zoning regulations.

Basically there are a lot of things being said about the zoning, and really no one is going to go fact check these things themselves. A petition is being passed around by the opponents of the rewrite that according to the Missoula Red Tape blog has gotten a lot of traction. In an article on that describes the opposition's approach, Roger Millar of the planning board is quoted, saying that the petition is "factually misleading." The planning board has even gone so far as to write up a document responding to the petition's misleading statements.

The petition doesn't speak fully to the opposition's tactics and I have heard of them using fear - it will destroy the character of neighborhoods and drop property values - the petition even shows a child being towered over by an ADU. My guess is that a lot of incensed people will show up to the meeting angry and opposed to the new zoning without really knowing what they are talking about. From the opposition's point of view, thats good, whats scarier than a bunch of pissed-off voters on an election year?


Daniel said...

Thanks for the update. I've been curious about how the zoning rewrite has been going. To be honest, whatever preserve-the-character-of-detached-single-family -homes-above-all-else activism your getting there is likely less than it would be in most places.

CarFree Stupidity said...

I'm just worried about that this issues will be used as an opportunity for a consertive backlash against more progressive ideas and what is happening in our country currently.

Last years election results - and repeal of zoning - in the Bitteroot (Ravalli county) happened because the conservatives were able to hammer against zoning and planning as an intrusion into personel property rights and good 'ol Montana individualism.

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