MISSOULA — We spoke with founding editor of Missoula Current, Martin Kidston, to learn more about efforts to overhaul local building codes, energy efficiency efforts and a proposed upgrade to a destination of popular swim in Missoula.
“The county is doing land use reform and the city is also doing code reform, and while that doesn’t sound very sexy, it’s actually a really big deal. On the city side, it’s an effort to streamline all of the codes, all of the policies, all of the major buildings, which have all streamlined the process to allow residents to have more predictability, to know what’s around them,” Kidston explained.
“For developers, it will make it more predictable for developers to know what they can and can’t do. Part of the problem of the past two years is that the city’s growth policy does not match current zoning. The growth policy is an idealistic idea of how the city wants to grow. Zoning is doing something completely different now, so the city has more often than not rezoned properties. It’s a pain in the back for developers, and it also leads to unnecessary unpredictability for neighborhoods. This code reform will bring all of that into line once and for all.
“I think in general it will be a positive. There may be certain nuances to this that may cause some controversy, such as the change in politics in established neighborhoods, ”Kidston continued. “If you live in a traditional single-family neighborhood where the city may consider rezoning This might bring change to some established neighborhoods, but it might add predictability to others about who will move in next door.
A household name is coming back into the picture in Missoula with Bryan von Lossberg tapped to lead clean energy efforts in Missoula.
“Bryan von Losssberg served a few terms on city council, the last term as council chairman. He has played a leading role in the city’s efforts to achieve 100% clean electricity. Some of its other climate goals include [the] Zero Waste Initiative. He was on city council when all of these policies and goals were passed,” Kidston said. “He left the board last year, but the city hired him as a consultant to help the city pursue these goals while the city’s new climate action specialist gets up to speed. This is a new position that the city funded last year in the budget with a specialist in private action.
“They’re paying von Lossberg with what’s left. These two efforts will bring the city closer to its climate goals, they hope. They are working with NorthWestern Energy on a green tariff,” continued Kidston. “Bryan knows all those things, he knows the players. He has partnerships, he’s an energy expert in some ways. He’ll be a big help for the city, moving in the right direction there.
Finally, the Missoula City Council approved the Missoula Currents upgrade concept with the goal of making it bigger and much more versatile. But, there hasn’t been much discussion about how to pay for the proposed changes.
“We have seen what direction this is taking in the past. It’s a $44 million project, which is probably out of reach for fundraising and bake sales alone. In that past — as we’ve seen with the Fort Missoula Library and Regional Park — those projects are paid for with a general bond bond,” Kidston noted. “Although we’re not sure because they haven’t declared it, it’s possible that voters in Missoula will vote this year or next.”