Missoula’s Miller Creek Residents Angry Over Proposal for Hundreds of Homes
Residents of Lower Miller Creek are worried a proposed development with hundreds of new homes could ruin their neighborhood, a location already struggling with traffic safety and growth.
And they're telling Missoula leaders to put the brakes on the Riverfront Trails subdivision before it brings a dramatic increase in density to adjacent rural lands.
After a year of surveying and development, residents finally learned the details of the project just a few weeks ago. Tollefsen Properties wants to build a 176-lot major subdivision on open lands next to Jeannette Rankin Elementary School, straddling the old Bitterroot Road.
However, at an informational meeting at the school this week, city council members admitted the actual number of units is closer to 280 residences, because of the multi-family apartments and structures that are in the plan. The project's density is higher than anything already built in Miller Creek, with some single-family lots as small as 3,000 square feet.
Developers are using the "affordable housing" argument
The developers say they plan a mix of "single-family, townhouse, quadplex, and multi-dwelling units." They argue their plans live adjacent open space that could be used as a park. They also maintain the project is needed for "affordable housing."
But residents asking questions at the meeting aren't just worried about the density. They're afraid of what will happen to property values and paying for a Street Improvement District. Miller Creek and Maloney Ranch residents are already seeing a dramatic spike in traffic stemming from the operation of the school, and the buildout of hundreds of units to the south that was approved by the City Council in 2008. Many of those homes remain to be built.
Councilwoman Stacie Anderson told the audience the project would require the developers to pay for street and sidewalk improvements, including a planned roundabout. But she was unable to give any details on what that would cost existing residents.
Some people are also worried about the design of the plat, which attempts to avoid building in the floodplain adjacent to the Bitterroot River, saying it could impact water quality.
One unexplained detail is getting attention too
Details were also sketchy on one section marked as a "future religious assembly" on the eastern property line, where plans call for fitting in an offset roundabout. That includes traffic such a facility might generate.
The project has drawn little attention until this week when objectors posted their own signs on the property line questioning the S.I.D. costs and tax impacts. Those signs were shortly taken down. Several meetings have already been held, and the full city council is set for a public hearing on the full proposal Monday evening, starting at 6 pm. That could set the stage for a final vote on the big project before Christmas.