City considers Miller Creek annexation request, eyes future annexation strategy

The Invermere Subdivision represents three phases of development, including 26 residences in Phase 1 and 66 platted lots associated with Phase 2. Gilbert Larson, the developer, has asked the city to annex both phases, along with a small portion of open space.

Two phases of a platted subdivision off Upper Miller Creek Road moved one step closer to annexation on Wednesday, though it prompted larger questions over the city’s annexation policies.

Members of the Missoula City Council gave initial approval to a developer’s request to bring portions of the Invermere Subdivision into the city limits, including 66 platted lots and 26 existing residences.

“We have a lot of builders anxious to get started there, so we’re eager to get this through,” said Gilbert Larson, the project’s developer. “The sales have gone well in here.”

The project represents three phases of development, including 26 residences in Phase 1 and 66 platted lots associated with Phase 2. Larson has asked the city to annex both phases, along with a small portion of open space.

But the project also includes a future Phase 3 that will be left wholly surrounded by the city once the other two phases are annexed. That, council member John DiBari said, is less than ideal.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to create a wholly surrounded situation,” DiBari said. “It seems to me that when making requests like this, we should be trying to avoid situations like this.”

While the Invermere Subdivision was approved by Missoula County, which has less stringent policies, Larson said it was actually planned to city standards. All phases will be served by city sewer and water, he said, and city engineering has given the project its stamp of approval.

Larson said he’d petition to annex Phase 3 into the city within a year.

“Whenever annexation is imminent, we do everything to city standards,” Larson said. “Everything we will do in Phases 2 and 3 will all be done to city standards and city approval – city parks and city everything.”

While the Invermere Subdivision seeks annexation into the city, an older subdivision located next door on Meriwether Street remains in the county, though it too will be entirely surrounded by the city.

That subdivision is served by Missoula Water but is not connected to city sewer.

“We have a larger question, a broader question about areas like this that would be good to get more out in front of if we could,” council member Bryan von Lossburg said of the outlying parcel. “We’re setting ourselves up for some unintended consequences.”

Drew Larson, a planner with Development Services, said the city could explore contiguous annexation to bring the Meriwether subdivision into the city when it annexes the Invermere project.

As it stands, he added, the planning department is looking to hone its annexation policies to address such issues in the future and eliminate wholly surrounded situations.

“The long-range planning department is looking into an annexation policy and getting to those types of questions, hopefully within the next year, so we can have some idea moving forward on annexing these parts of the county that are essentially in the city,” Drew Larson said. “They’re working on that annexation strategy right now.”

The City Council will vote on annexing the Invermere Subdivision after a public hearing set for late March.