New home to be built on site of deadly 2014 Mount Jumbo avalanche

The new home will be 27.4 feet in height. (NC Design Studio drawing, looking upslope at Mount Jumbo)

A new three-story house will be built at 1440 Harrison St. in Missoula’s lower Rattlesnake neighborhood on the site of a home destroyed by a deadly 2014 avalanche on Mount Jumbo.

City Council members signed off on the plan, by way of unanimously approving a right-of-way vacation for the final, unpaved portion of Holly Street, at their Monday night meeting.

The extra space will provide greater distance between the home and the existing house at 1438 Harrison, eliminating the specter of a “very imposing” new neighbor, architect Nic Cole explained in his application.

“The proposed residence is a single-family home with a garage at street level. The owner would like to create a better buffer zone between the southern neighbor and themselves,” Cole said. “Pushing the proposed house north creates a more proportioned street frontage and is more consistent with the existing neighborhood.”

The house cannot be moved farther to the north because of its proximity to the abrupt slopes of Mount Jumbo.

The previous home at 1440 Harrison was destroyed by an avalanche on Feb. 28, 2014, that buried its residents, Missoula artist Michel Colville and her husband, University of Montana biologist Fred Allendorf.

Colville died of her injuries.

A 10-year-old boy who was playing in the yard of a nearby house also was buried and survived, as did Allendorf.

The home was a complete loss; volunteers worked for weeks to salvage as many of the couple’s possessions as possible, including some of Colville’s artwork and Allendorf’s extensive journals.

Now the property is owned by Ron Fitzgerald, who wants to build a modernistic, window-filled home looking upslope on the mountain that is protected as city open space.

But architect Cole said Fitzgerald wants to be a good neighbor and not have his home create an imposing presence to the downslope house.

Thus came the request to City Council members for a right-of-way vacation of the southernmost 20 feet on Holly Street, providing the new home with a larger setback.

“Due to the sloping nature of the current topography, a house on the setback line would create a very imposing structure staring down on the adjacent neighbor at 1438 Harrison,” Cole said.

“The buildable area of the lot is limited by the close proximity to Mount Jumbo on the southeast property line,” he said. “This prohibits a long and narrow house design.”

City planner Jenny Baker said new curbs, gutters and sidewalks will be provided along Harrison Street by the builder. The remaining portion of Holly Street could become a public access easement.

City officials did not express any concerns about any future avalanche danger or about rebuilding on the site. A snowboarder triggered the 2014 slide.

No one from the public spoke during Monday night’s hearing.