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The effort to replace Missoula’s flawed zoning ordinance with a more clearly written version is being challenged in court, potentially delaying an already two-year-old process. Three Missoula City Council members July 9 filed an application for a “writ of mandate” against the city in Missoula County District Court. If granted, the legal action would prohibit the council from proceeding with its review of the zoning ordinance rewrite. The lawsuit was filed by Dick Haines and Renee Mitchell of Ward 5 and Lyn Hellegaard of Ward 4. They are being represented by the Wittich Law Firm in Bozeman.

Missoula Council Members File Lawsuit Over Zoning Revamp

The effort to replace Missoula’s flawed zoning ordinance with a more clearly written version is being challenged in court, potentially delaying an already two-year-old process.

Three Missoula City Council members filed an application for a “writ of mandate” against the city of Missoula on July 9. If granted, the legal action would prohibit the council from proceeding with its review of the zoning ordinance rewrite.

The lawsuit was filed in Missoula County District Court by Dick Haines and Renee Mitchell of Ward 5, and Lyn Hellegaard of Ward 4. They are being represented by the Wittich Law Firm in Bozeman.

The main complaint in the legal action is that Missoula residents were inadequately informed about how the new zoning ordinance would affect their property, and that the city council did not follow proper procedures. The suit asks the court to order the city to “cease its current rezoning process” until the city provides adequate notice to property owners and follows the rezoning process required by its own regulations.

Councilman Jason Wiener of Ward 1 said he doesn’t understand how stopping and repeating the process will lead to a different conclusion. “We have already exceeded by far anything that is required by the regulations,” he said. “I’m optimistic that the interpretation of the land use experts and legal experts we’ve consulted will be confirmed by the court.

“We’ll get a new zoning ordinance in the end,” said Wiener, “and this whole process will have been worth it.”

Check out the entire lawsuit (via the Missoulian) by clicking here.

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3 comments

  1. Unbelievable.

  2. Binky Griptight

    Pretty predictable, really.

    Both side are playing politics. Haines, Mitchell and Hellegaard are clearly picking a battle they think will reflect well on them. Weiner and the ‘affordable housing’ allies are using the rewrite to forward their higher density agenda.

    This lawsuit perhaps just lays bare their objectives and how politicized this rewrite process was from the very beginning.

    OPG really shouldn’t be surprised. The criticisms have been out there for a long time and OPG played an aggressive defense which only helped politicize things all the more.

  3. Property owners should have the right to protest and this document should go up for a city wide referendum. The right of protest and a free and open election on the zoning rewrite-rezone is a fundamental progressive right and to me represents a tolerant Missoula.
    It doesn’t make a sense to me that a Liberal city council would want to take away people’s free speech and protest rights. Come on you Liberal free thinkers, challenge yourselves to think outside your own box and respect all opinions with an open mind. Let’s have a referendum on this zoning change in the fall and let’s give all Missoula property owners back their protest rights.
    My guess is that the same parties that are compelled to sue to win back their rights would drop the suit in exchange for the right to protest and a city wide vote on the zoning.