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.”