[MissoulaGov] Committee update 6-20-07

Paul Sopko psopko at highstream.net
Tue Jun 26 14:29:46 MDT 2007

Thanks Jim for giving credit to Roberta. She put hundreds of hours into the rental licensing effort. Unfortunately at the time, former Mayor Kadas, University area activists and their City Council representatives (Crowley & Gingerrelli) were at odds on a number of issues. I'm sure this had something to do with him vetoing an ordinance originating from the University Area and sponsored by Ward 3 council members.

My recollection was that the mayors amendatory veto effectively limited the scope of the ordinance to triplexes and larger. This would have made the ordinance toothless since triplexes and above were already considered business's under the current ordinance and had to obtain a license. I thought the realtors and some influential landlords convinced Kadas that rental licensing wasn't necessary. If Kadas was committed to the concept, he could have instructed his staff to craft an ordinance that was legally defensible and allowed safety inspections for single family rentals as well as duplexes, triplexes etc... Jim Nugent referred us the Great Falls ordinance which seems to achieve these goals but their was an obvious lack of interest from the mayors office.

BTW, I heard a couple of months ago that local banks had put a moratorium on loans for construction of multi-unit apartment complexes because the vacancy rate for these units had become uncomfortably high. I haven't seen any credible vacancy rate statistics lately. I question the numbers coming from the landlords and realtors since they have obvious financial motives for advertising a low vacancy market. Abe Abramson seemed to have a good feel for this particular market.
----- Original Message -----
From: Jim McGrath
To: Jim McGrath ; bjaffe at ci.missoula.mt.us ; missoulagov at cmslists.com
Sent: Sunday, June 24, 2007 12:10 PM
Subject: Re: [MissoulaGov] Committee update 6-20-07

I should acknowledge that credit should be given to Roberta Manis for working on the landlord licensing ordinance back then.

By the way, I'm pretty sure I voted against adopting that ordinance at the time because of flaws in the way it was written. If I remember Mayor Kadas made two amendatory vetoes trying to address them, one of which was sustained and the other overturned. I could be thinking of a different ordinance, tho.


From: missoulagov-bounces at cmslists.com [mailto:missoulagov-bounces at cmslists.com] On Behalf Of Jim McGrath
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:31 AM
To: bjaffe at ci.missoula.mt.us; missoulagov at cmslists.com
Subject: Re: [MissoulaGov] Committee update 6-20-07


A quick note about rental licensing.

First, good luck. I committed a lot of time to that in my years with little result. I do recommend hooking up with MTPIRG, ASUM and the UM rental housing folks to help make anything you come up with more effective. The best idea I had (never implemented) was to have some sort of "certification" system, like green products, so that the good landlords -who paid a fee for an inspection-could see some added value. ASUM/MTPIRG could maintain a list and renters could search for "certified" versus "at-your-own-risk" landlords. But in a low-vacancy market, not much choice is out there.

I urge you to read the judge's opinion when zapping the city's licensing ordinance. It is unbelievable. It's been a while since I read it, so I don't remember it much except that part of the ruling seemed pretty crazy. Unfortunately, since it was a legal decision, it is now law.


From: missoulagov-bounces at cmslists.com [mailto:missoulagov-bounces at cmslists.com] On Behalf Of Bob Jaffe
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:15 AM
To: missoulagov at cmslists.com
Subject: [MissoulaGov] Committee update 6-20-07

Good Morning,

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 proposal.

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,

Bob Jaffe

Missoula City Council, Ward 3

bjaffe at ci.missoula.mt.us



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