[MissoulaGov] Committee update 6-20-07
bjaffe at ci.missoula.mt.us
Thu Jun 21 08:14:58 MDT 2007
We had a very interesting day yesterday. More substance than usual.
At 8:30 we took up the issue of rental safety that Jon Wilkins brought up at
the council meeting a few weeks ago. The idea is to try to come up with
ways to improve some of the substandard housing in Missoula. A few years ago
Missoula started licensing landlords. The landlord association or some such
group sued the city and won. According to state law municipalities are
specifically not allowed to 'license landlords or to regulate their
activities with regard to tenants beyond what is provided in
70.24.25(landlord tenant act).' But it also says 'this subsection is not
intended to restrict a local government's ability to require landlords to
comply with ordinances or provisions that are applicable to all other
businesses or residences within the local government's jurisdiction.'
So Nugent was careful to point out that we shouldn't create a new policy
that specifically applies to landlords. We are looking at the idea of
creating a voluntary program where a property owner (not necessarily a
landlord) can request that their building be certified as 'up to code.' This
could be used in advertising and whatnot to help promote their property.
There are a few obvious problems with this idea. The main one is that in a
rental market with so few vacancies there is not a lot of incentive for a
landlord to bother with something like this. Without some other type of
licensing revenue there will need to be a fee for this service. For a
program like this to be successful there would need to be a good amount of
advertising to create a demand from renters for the certification. This of
course would also take money.
I still want to look into the issue of licensing to find out why that failed
last time. It seems to me that we license and inspect all other businesses
in the city so we should be able to do that with landlords.
We set up a subcommittee to do the research and develop some kind of
Then we had our Committee of the Whole meeting to take up the Iraq
resolution referred by Stacy and I. Here is the referral:
The discussion focused mainly on whether it was our place to make any
statement on the subject of Iraq. Mr. Wilkins spoke about being a Vietnam
vet and how this was a very sensitive subject we had no right to talk about
and then stomped out of the room. Mr. Hendrickson argued that the right
place for the voters to make such a statement would be in their choices in
the 2008 federal elections. Jack voiced concerns that this in some small way
may cause harm to our troops overseas. Dave, Ed, Stacy, Marilyn, and I
argued in favor of the motion. My take on it is that the Iraq war has a
great deal to do with Missoula, Montana. Our police and fire departments
have staff over there; the federal moneys we depend on are greatly reduced
to help fund the war; our citizens will be paying off the war debt for a
generation; we have many families and businesses that are missing loved ones
and employees; and many of our citizens feel they have a moral obligation to
make a statement about the war.
There is clearly a trend for local communities to take the lead on issues
where the federal government is not responsive. This is seen more and more
with environmental standards, clean fuels, and greenhouse gas reductions. I
would like to see Missoula join the 300 or so communities that have already
passed resolutions or referendums regarding the war.
Mr. Nugent pointed out that the language of the referendum needs to draw out
how this affects us locally. So we will need to edit this some before
Monday. All of the people who came to committee to speak were in favor of
the resolution. Considering the reluctance of half the council to support
something like this it may be worthwhile to have a public hearing to help
assess the sentiment of the community. I think there is overwhelming support
for putting this on the ballot.
Public Works was split up into two meetings. In the morning we took up the
extension of the SafePats deal to sell the city shops property on Broadway
to St. Pats so they can trade it with Safeway for the property next to the
hospital. The project has evolved reasonably well. This will be what Safeway
calls a "lifestyle store." That means it will be a more upscale version of a
supermarket trying to draw in some of the ambiance of the good food store as
opposed to schlock of Walmart. Between the lawsuit and other complications
that delayed the project they still need more time to get the details
wrapped up. We voted to give them another year.
I think it was PAZ next with a discussion of the Joseph Residence up in the
Rattlesnake. This was an old nursing home which was converted into
transitional housing for the homeless and managed by the Poverello. That
program no longer operates out of that facility. The housing authority owns
it and put together a deal with Missoula Children's theater to use it for
temporary housing for visiting actors. They also intended to use it for
families visiting the community for extended hospital stays like the Ronald
McDonald house. But they want the PUD zoning to have underlying R8 zoning
in case those plans don't work out and they need to develop the property.
>From the sound of it, those plans may well not work out. Heidi voiced
concern that the high level of neighborhood support may have been predicated
upon the relationship with MCT and we better make sure folks are aware that
this may become a traditional development.
The other matter in PAZ was the sale of our 'park' on Carter Court to
finance the development of Lafrae park. The sale got stalled at the Board of
Adjustment because it would increase the density in the subdivision. Mr.
Nugent gave arguments why they indeed had the authority to approve the
project but a majority of BOA members didn't agree with our attorney.
Rather than fight the BOA in court the project is being structured as a PUD
that will come before the council. The committee had interest in seeing if
Parks could find a way to go forward with the park development this year
with hopes of recovering the cost next year when we sell the property.
We then reconvened Public Works for more discussion about Hillview Way. The
public works department had followed up on our request to find a way to
defer payment on the large undeveloped lots. If the owner of one of these
parcels wants to defer their payment, the city will pay for it out of the
SID revolving fund. At whatever time the property is sold or developed, the
owner will pay the assessment at a rate based on the developed value of the
land (with interest). The developed value will be assessed now and a number
pegged at the time of the deferment. It will be about 50% more than the
assessment would be if they just paid it on the undeveloped land. This way,
a large property owner who does not have intentions of developing will not
be forced to pay a huge assessment. But if they take advantage of the
deferment and later chose to develop, they won't also be able to take
advantage of a bare land assessment.
We finished the day with a couple of more hours of budget. We heard from the
building inspection department. It was refreshing to hear the various ways
they were trying to save money. I'm sure all of the departments do this but
it would be nice to hear from them what ideas and changes they are
implementing to be more efficient.
Thank you for your interest,
Missoula City Council, Ward 3
<mailto:bjaffe at ci.missoula.mt.us> bjaffe at ci.missoula.mt.us
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