Council drops traffic study in approving bowling alley’s permit to expand

City Council
The Missoula City Council.

By Martin Kidston

A number of conditions placed upon a Missoula business looking to expand left one member of the City Council decrying some of the requirements as onerous on Monday night, and the business owner second guessing his project.

Norman Carey, owner of Westside Lanes and Fun Center, is looking to expand the facility at 1615 Wyoming Street to add 10 additional lanes of bowling.

Because the proposed expansion exceeds 5 percent, it requires approval of “conditional use” from the city. Some of those conditions concerned Carey, who said they would bring additional costs and could make his project too expensive to complete.

“The more things you add, the higher the costs go,” he told the council on Monday night. “After your decision, I’ll go through and make a decision on whether we can do it or not.”

The conditions require Westside Lanes to add more ADA parking spaces, provide 30 short-term bicycle parking spaces, and post no-smoking signs outside the building’s entrance.

The conditions also require the business to revise its plan to make a trail connection to the Milwaukee Trail, and to embark on a costly Traffic Impact Analysis. Westside Lanes could also be required to pay for mitigation resulting from increased traffic volumes.

When asked by one council member if the new Missoula Food Bank was also required to conduct a Traffic Impact Analysis and meet the same conditions as required by the private business, Drew Larson of Development Services said he didn’t know.

The Food Bank is building in the same area, and several council members believe that it would also trigger additional traffic. It was unfair that Westside Lanes was required to pay for the study alone when it wasn’t the only growing operation on Wyoming Street, they said.

“Look at what this developer is going through,” Ward 4 council member Jon Wilkins said. “This is a hard town to build anything, and this is a prime example of that. We need to start doing something to make it a little easier on these developers.”

Mayor John Engen disagreed, saying the city has taken steps to simplify the building process, though it also holds a responsibility to maintain the public good by asking businesses to meet certain requirements.

“This is not a hard to town build anything,” Engen said. “This is a very good place to do business.”

Ward 4 Council Member John DiBari made a motion to have the Missoula Food Bank share the cost of the Traffic Impact Analysis and help pay for any mitigation needs,

Engen suggested bagging the traffic study altogether. The council agreed and approved the Westside Lanes application on a 10-0 vote.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com