Infrastructure in West Riverside

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Though this discussion will never be "over," the consultants who worked on this project for the County have provided their input and next steps, and staff will be in touch as steps progress with infrastructure in the area.


zoning map of West Riverside areaThis is a zoning map of the West Riverside area we are hoping to engage in this project. Industrial zoning is dark and light gray. Live/make zoning is purple. Residential zoning is yellow. Commercial zoning is red. Agricultural zoning is green.

Missoula County staff launched this project to know the West Riverside community’s thoughts and concerns related to infrastructure in their area, so they could learn the neighborhood’s vision and develop infrastructure recommendations for the Missoula County commissioners. View the next steps, ways to continue to stay engaged and recommendations below, and find the final report in the "documents" widget on the right-hand side.

This project launched in spring 2023 because private developers are exploring development of this area, which could start as soon as fall 2023. The nearby Bonner West Log Yard, zoned for industrial use, has been designated a Targeted Economic Development District due to its lack of adequate roads, sidewalks, curbs and gutters; lack of water and wastewater infrastructure; and poor water quality. The West Riverside neighborhood is not a TEDD; however, because of the Live/Make zoning, it could become one if the community is interested. Keep in mind that being in a Targeted Economic Development District does not in itself increase property taxes. A TEDD simply ensures any increases in tax revenue stay in the area to fund infrastructure improvements, rather than going toward the general budgets of local taxing jurisdictions.

Private investment within the TEDD will create new tax revenue that could be used to fund infrastructure that serves West Riverside if there is local interest (see the “Tax Increment Financing and Targeted Economic Development Districts” definitions to the right).

Staff and community partners, including two community engagement consultants the County contracted with, worked closely with residents to understand their concerns and desires regarding infrastructure, as well as worked with technical experts to help show the opportunities and challenges regarding infrastructure in this area.

The goal of this project was to provide recommendations to the commissioners from and for the neighborhood on their vision for infrastructure and to establish an agreed-upon framework by the West Riverside community for engaging in conversations and decision-making with the County in the future. Those recommendations, as well as the outlined next steps and ways to continue to stay engaged with the County, are listed in the News Feed below.

This process is designed to build greater understanding, collaboration and communication between West Riverside community members and staff members at the County, as we learn alongside each other about opportunities and challenges related to infrastructure in West Riverside.


zoning map of West Riverside areaThis is a zoning map of the West Riverside area we are hoping to engage in this project. Industrial zoning is dark and light gray. Live/make zoning is purple. Residential zoning is yellow. Commercial zoning is red. Agricultural zoning is green.

Missoula County staff launched this project to know the West Riverside community’s thoughts and concerns related to infrastructure in their area, so they could learn the neighborhood’s vision and develop infrastructure recommendations for the Missoula County commissioners. View the next steps, ways to continue to stay engaged and recommendations below, and find the final report in the "documents" widget on the right-hand side.

This project launched in spring 2023 because private developers are exploring development of this area, which could start as soon as fall 2023. The nearby Bonner West Log Yard, zoned for industrial use, has been designated a Targeted Economic Development District due to its lack of adequate roads, sidewalks, curbs and gutters; lack of water and wastewater infrastructure; and poor water quality. The West Riverside neighborhood is not a TEDD; however, because of the Live/Make zoning, it could become one if the community is interested. Keep in mind that being in a Targeted Economic Development District does not in itself increase property taxes. A TEDD simply ensures any increases in tax revenue stay in the area to fund infrastructure improvements, rather than going toward the general budgets of local taxing jurisdictions.

Private investment within the TEDD will create new tax revenue that could be used to fund infrastructure that serves West Riverside if there is local interest (see the “Tax Increment Financing and Targeted Economic Development Districts” definitions to the right).

Staff and community partners, including two community engagement consultants the County contracted with, worked closely with residents to understand their concerns and desires regarding infrastructure, as well as worked with technical experts to help show the opportunities and challenges regarding infrastructure in this area.

The goal of this project was to provide recommendations to the commissioners from and for the neighborhood on their vision for infrastructure and to establish an agreed-upon framework by the West Riverside community for engaging in conversations and decision-making with the County in the future. Those recommendations, as well as the outlined next steps and ways to continue to stay engaged with the County, are listed in the News Feed below.

This process is designed to build greater understanding, collaboration and communication between West Riverside community members and staff members at the County, as we learn alongside each other about opportunities and challenges related to infrastructure in West Riverside.

Though this discussion will never be "over," the consultants who worked on this project for the County have provided their input and next steps, and staff will be in touch as steps progress with infrastructure in the area.

  • Ways to Stay Engaged

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    Thank you for attending events and engaging with Missoula County as we gathered your community’s thoughts and concerns related to infrastructure in the West Riverside area. We want to make sure these conversations continue to feel accessible and productive, and we thank you for staying with us through this engagement period and participating as much as you did.

    Though we will likely not be able to continue a robust engagement effort all year round in the West Riverside on all County news, we still want to make sure your community continues to feel heard and understood. One of the easiest ways to do this is attend your Bonner-Milltown Community Council meeting from 7-9 p.m. on the second Monday of each month, located at the Bonner School cafeteria. If you have topics of interest you want to discuss, reach out to the council to get the conversation going at bcommunitycouncil@gmail.com. County staff are available and happy to give presentations at these meetings if you want to do a deeper dive into a specific topic.

    We especially want to invite you to a community conversation event happening during the regular council meeting time at 7-9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, at the Bonner School. This will be an event that involves county staff from multiple public-facing departments, such as Public Works, planning, the health department, parks and trails and more. More information will be advertised and sent out about this event, so stay tuned!

    We also suggest you sign up to receive the most recent County news by subscribing to the Missoula County Weekly newsletter, which goes out each week. Subscribe at http://missoula.co/subscribe and choose “weekly newsletter” as your preference to receive the news straight to your email every Monday.

    You can also keep up with what’s happening at the County by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and listening to our podcast at http://missoula.co/podcast.

    To engage on County projects that are happening in your area, you can visit https://missoulacountyvoice.com and register to “follow” projects you may be interested in. Missoula County Voice hosts all major projects happening at the County, such as development proposals, the County budget and more. You can also confirm different myths or rumors you’ve heard that involve the County on the “Myth Busters!” Missoula County Voice page to see if they’re accurate or not.

    We know your community also values physical engagement, such as sandwich board signs and flyers. When there is a topic of interest to your community, staff will aim to hang flyers around your community with information on this topic. The Bonner-Milltown Community Council is also looking into purchasing sandwich boards that can regularly display information pertinent to your community.

  • West Riverside Community Engagement Next Steps

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    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Make a plan based on project results and communicate that plan to the community: Over 100 community stakeholders mobilized and took time to participate in two community surveys and an in-person event. In order to maintain engagement and demonstrate community input is taken seriously, the consultants recommended sharing back a plan, or simple next steps, with the community that indicates how Missoula County will respond to the community’s desires.

    • STEP 1: Update the Missoula County Voice page with project results and next steps.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Recommendations updated Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023.

    • STEP 2: Send an email to the complete list of project participants, indicating any next steps.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Email sent Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, detailed changes to Missoula County Voice page as well as a notice that the County is redesigning its website so each community will have its own page with relevant information.

    • STEP 3: Provide community participants who indicated they are interested in future engagement with a clear avenue for engagement.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Ways to stay involved emailed Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. This can be found on Missoula County Voice page.

    • STEP 4: Communicate with county staff who participated in the project, sharing results and any next steps.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Email sent to county staff on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

    TO DO: Discuss Next Steps with commissioners at Land and Economic Development update meeting on Nov. 7, 2023.

    Value community relationships: Consider if there are any relationships or structures created during this project that would benefit from a formal follow-up or ongoing attention. For example, consider if there is value in directly connecting the Leadership Team to a BMCC liaison, or a desire to formally thank those who participated in the project. Ideas include:

    • STEP 1: Formally thank the LT members and let them know about any ongoing opportunities to engage.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Email sent to LT members on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

    • STEP 2: Directly communicate any next steps in the process to those who engaged.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Emailed participants on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023 detailing changes to Missoula County Voice page as well as a notice that the County is redesigning its website so each community will have its own page with relevant information.

    • STEP 3: Consider if there are non-Leadership Team members who might benefit from additional outreach.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Emailed all participants on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Followed up with all comments and requests.

    Share and integrate results with relevant Missoula County departments: While this project was undertaken by the department of Land and Economic Development, the project required significant engagement from other departments and the results are likely equally relevant to other departments. West Riverside residents will likely not distinguish County employees, projects or interactions by department, thus when working to increase trust and engagement with the community the methods and framework of one department will affect all the others. Opportunities include:

    • STEP 1: Share these framework/recommendations with relevant departments.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Email sent to county staff on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023

    TO DO: Discuss Next Steps with commissioners at Land and Economic Development update meeting on Nov. 7, 2023.

    • STEP 2: Discuss if any findings or recommendations can formally affect policy or existing/proposed plans for community engagement.

    ACTION COMPLETED: Met with Communications Team to conduct follow-up meeting pertaining to recommendations. Comms Team has implemented “Community Conversations,which brings public-facing departments to community council meetings to engage in one-on-one conversations about topics or questions brought up by the community, similar to the event hosted by the consultants in May.

    • STEP 3: How can community engagement preferences shape future County work in West Riverside?

    ACTION COMPLETED: Discussed engagement preferences with public-facing departments such as Public Works, Parks, Trails, Open Lands and Planning, Development and Sustainability and Communications.

    • STEP 4: What public infrastructure priorities need follow-up? What departments are best suited to act upon any next steps?

    ACTION COMPLETED: Met with Public Works and Parks, Trails and Open Lands to discuss traffic, road/sidewalk projects, recreation sites, playground equipment and trails. Public infrastructure improvements will be addressed as funding becomes available.

    • STEP 5: How can various County departments use project findings to increase trust and workability with the West Riverside community?

    ACTION COMPLETED: Discussed at meeting with Communications Team. The community council is the prescribed way county departments interact with the community.

    • STEP 6: Are there current projects that could benefit from the findings of this project? If so, what’s the best way to share and integrate findings?

    ACTION COMPLETED: Discussed at meetings with various county departments. The Communications Team is taking the lead on integrating findings from this project with future engagement opportunities.

    Consider if findings are relevant for community engagement beyond West Riverside: Given the resources invested, the County may want to consider what lessons learned may be relevant outside of West Riverside. This could include pulling from engagement methods in the future, or considering if community concerns and priorities voiced in West Riverside are shared by other communities where the county plans projects or engagement. Questions to consider include:

    • STEP 1: Are there methods used in this project that are valuable to replicate in other communities?

    ACTION COMPLETED: Discussed in meeting with Communications Team.

    • STEP 2: Are there findings that may be relevant to consider when engaging other communities in Missoula County?

    ACTION COMPLETED: Discussed with county staff liaison for Community Councils to see what other councils find beneficial. Ideas included purchasing sandwich boards and utilizing area readerboards, such as at schools, to notify of council meetings.

  • Recommendations

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    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    The engagement consultants on this project created a final survey at the end of the engagement project with top community priorities, concerns, specific and general infrastructure ideas and options for community engagement. This step provided an opportunity to validate findings. The survey was available for one week on the Missoula County Voice page and was also available via iPads or paper/pencil during a two-day event where residents could drop by, talk with leadership team members and enjoy a popsicle.

    The consultants shared the results of the final survey as well as an initial draft report of findings and recommendations with Missoula County staff and the leadership in June.

    On July 18, 2023, the consultants made the following recommendations to the Missoula Board of County Commissioners, based on West Riverside community members’ vision for infrastructure and their preferred types of community engagement.

    1. Create a community-driven plan to address infrastructure, growth and affordability.
      1. Conduct a water and wastewater system analysis.
      2. Analyze how infrastructure may impact residents’ top priorities/concerns and consider how to minimize any negative impacts.
      3. Prioritize infrastructure desires ranked highly by residents.
      4. Affirm that the County understands individual wells are a community priority.
    2. Implement a clear, cohesive outreach strategy to build genuine partnership with the community.
      1. Strengthen and support Bonner Milltown Community Council’s ability to serve the West Riverside community.
      2. Provide ongoing education ‘workshops’ and opportunities for dialogue between community members and Missoula County staff.
      3. Streamline communication so residents can more easily find relevant information for their community.
      4. Continue cross-departmental coordination to ensure consistency when working with the community.
    3. Use preferred methods of communication and community outreach.
      1. Use surveys to support community input and decision-making.
      2. Use mail and local signage to communicate community updates and key participation opportunities.
      3. Provide in-person dialogue opportunities with online follow-up.

    The consultants also shared these recommendations at meetings with the Bonner Milltown Community Council and the Missoula Development Authority. View the full report.

  • Notes from the Community Conversation

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    West Riverside Community Conversation

    Residents from West Riverside and staff members from a range of Missoula County and City of Missoula departments gathered on Wednesday, May 24th to engage in conversation about hopes and concerns particular to infrastructure for West Riverside. Residents and staff members asked and answered questions about current plans for the area, future scenarios, and priorities.

    Below are notes from the event, which includes a summary of the most asked questions and shared information organized by topic area:

    Traffic Safety, Connectivity, Roads

    Community members are concerned about traffic safety, especially for pedestrians.

    Priority areas for community members were –

    • Safe navigation along 1st St. to Town Pump.

    • Safe navigation for children from West Riverside to Bonner School.

    • Intersection at Hwy 200, Tremper, and West Riverside

    Community members are also concerned about speeding in the neighborhood, increased traffic on Highway 200, and road conditions. They are interested in learning more about the shared-use path to Missoula and the parking project at Sha-Ron.

    Missoula County Public Works has developed a plan for the intersection at Highway 200, Tremper, and West Riverside. This plan needs to locate funding before Missoula Metropolitan Organization can implement it.

    Parks, Trails, Open Space

    Community members appreciate access to parks, trails, and open spaces and want to see that access maintained and improved.

    Priority areas for community members were –

    • Improved access to Woody Mountain.

    • Improved access to the Blackfoot River Trail.

    • Improved playground equipment for children.

    • Bike trail connectivity to East Missoula > Missoula.

    • Improved pedestrian facilities for children to Town Pump and Bonner School

    Projects to address these priorities can be viewed in the following documents: in the

    Most funding for parks is available through grants, which require local funding matches. There is $50,000 in matching funds available for capital improvements (ex: playground equipment) to support recreation. If community members have ideas, they should contact Missoula County Parks, Trails and Open Lands staff.

    Water and Wastewater

    Many community members were curious about community wastewater options and funding for those options. However, residents also shared concerns that public wastewater or public water supply improvements could allow for undesired growth and have significant costs.

    Staff members from Missoula City-County Health Department and Missoula County Public Works were asked the following questions from community members and provided these answers:

    Q: How would a public water supply system impact the level of water in the water table?

    A: This question would require the technical expertise of, or a study from, engineers or hydrologists to answer, which an infrastructure plan would address.

    Q: If we want a public wastewater system, do we have to get a public water?

    A: No, the community could decide to build a public wastewater system and still maintain their individual wells.

    Q: How does wastewater affect wells and water rights?

    A: Wastewater and water are different needs and can be done independently of one another.

    Q: Is the EPA still sampling for arsenic in wells?

    A: Residential well testing was last conducted in 2014. More limited ongoing testing of monitoring wells by the EPA continues with two samples taken each year. Arsenic still exceeds the drinking water standard in some of these monitoring wells. High arsenic is not caused by, or an indicator of, contamination from septic systems.

    Q: What happens when a septic system fails?

    A: Health department staff members try to help find a solution but there are constraints. The new system must be set back 100’ from any well, which causes challenges in dense areas.

    Q: When a system fails and is replaced, what are the “deed restrictions”?

    A: Replacement systems that use seepage pits or new or increased use (ex: adding bedrooms to a house) require a “deed restriction” that limits the ability to protest expansion of municipal sewer and requires connection within 180 days of it being available.

    Q: When a system is replaced are there still limitations?

    A: Yes, there are limitations for many properties for increasing use (ex: adding bedrooms).

    Q: If we’re interested in sewer, do we have to connect to the City of Missoula’s sewer system?

    A: No, a smaller, local system is a possibility.

    Q: What is the timing for hook-up to a new wastewater system?

    A: If the community decided to move forward on a wastewater treatment system, it would likely take years of planning and building. Any decisions on timing could be addressed through an Infrastructure Plan.

    Zoning, Growth and Housing

    Many community members shared concerns about unregulated growth. Residents shared that they wanted to maintain the closeness of their community and many did not want to see increased growth in the way of high-rise buildings (apartments or hotels). The County adopted a growth plan and new zoning for West Riverside, which guides and regulates growth. Even with development of infrastructure such as public wastewater and water supply systems, new development and growth must be in compliance with the adopted plan and zoning regulations.

    However, many community members wish to see targeted development in the form of child care, a grocery store, and laundry services. In many cases, higher levels of commercial development require wastewater and water supply infrastructure.

    Housing staff at Missoula County shared their priority – keeping residents in their homes. They offered residents more information about the Homeowner Rehab & Repair Loan program.

    Much of West Riverside is newly zoned “live/make” which is a unique designation that allows agricultural-related businesses, home daycare and home occupation amongst other uses. It does not allow for animal shelter or boarding kennel, cannabis dispensary or junk and salvage yard amongst other uses.

    This zoning extends north past Flagler Dr. south to W. Riverside Dr., east to 9th St. and west to Tremper Dr.

    The West Log Yard is zoned “industrial” and “light industrial” and has some river protections for riparian and wildlife that consider:

    • The proposed water supply and sanitation systems and the ability of these systems to prevent disease, contamination and unsanitary conditions;

    • The effect of the project on streamside vegetation and the stability of the streambank;

    • The effect of the project on water rights;

    • The effects on species protected by the Endangered Species Act or of special interest or concern to the State of Montana.

    Zoning changes can be initiated by private parties or Missoula County. Any changes to the zoning must be consistent with the 2019 Missoula Area Land Use Element and the 2016 Missoula County Growth Policy. Changes to the zoning require public notice and comment prior to approval.

    Infrastructure Planning and Funding

    County staff members shared that there are unprecedented funding opportunities for infrastructure at the federal level. However, most of this funding requires a local match. Additionally, all this funding requires communities to have a plan in place before applying for the funding.

    Q: What types of plans need to happen to receive funding and how does a community do this?

    A: An infrastructure plan is a way for a community to study the different options for providing services to an area through a combination of detailed analysis and community engagement. They typically focus on core infrastructure like roads, non-motorized circulation, water, sewer or wastewater treatment and stormwater. These plans are an opportunity to thoroughly analyze different ways to provide service and identify a preferred course of action; they are not project level engineering plans.

    Q: What types of funding are available?

    A: Tax increment from the Bonner West Log Yard Targeted Economic Development District (TEDD) is one local funding source that could benefit West Riverside community members. The TEDD district ensures tax increment from the defined area is used for infrastructure improvements in that area. Rather than only using the funding to support infrastructure development in the current (Bonner West Log Yard) TEDD area, County staff members shared that it could also be used as matching funds for infrastructure that benefits a broader area, or that infrastructure could be scaled to benefit the broader community.

    Additionally, the Economic Development Administration has grants available that may be applicable to the community. These grants can be used to fund water supply, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. The systems must be owned by a public entity (such as the County).

    Q: What types of infrastructure opportunities would be available to community members from the TEDD?

    A: As the private property within the Bonner West Log Yard is developed, a wastewater system will also have to be planned. The wastewater system could be built with connecting infrastructure and scaled so that community members could hook up to the wastewater system at some point.

    Q: What would the cost to the community be?

    A: A TEDD does not cause an increase in taxes. Funding from a TEDD could be used to support infrastructure in a number of different ways, including as a match for grant funding. If a wastewater system were developed and there were grants and other funds to pay for the capital improvement, service and maintenance would be billed to the users.


  • West Riverside's Infrastructure History

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    The area east of Missoula initially developed in 1886 with the opening of the sawmill in what is now the Bonner Mill Site Industrial Park, which employed over 1,000 workers at its height. In 1910, the West Riverside neighborhood was officially created when Barbara Zaugg subdivided her property, creating an opportunity for home ownership – an uncommon thing during these times in this area - and providing homes that are, to this day, more affordable than many other areas in and around Missoula.

    In 2019, with input from West Riverside residents, the Missoula County Land Use Element (also known as the Growth Policy) identified the neighborhood as one that contains essential elements of a livable community, noting that for it to remain livable or develop further, it needs infrastructure investment. During the 2022 County zoning project, West Riverside residents requested the zoning designation “Live/Make,” which is a new zoning designation that provides entrepreneurs and artisans the ability to live on the same property where they work. During that zoning process, the log yard maintained its “industrial” zoning; however, at the request of residents, a “light industrial” buffer was added.** A secondary benefit of Live/Make zoning is that it creates opportunities to use new funding sources for infrastructure if there is interest in becoming a TEDD.

    Being in a Targeted Economic Development District does not in itself increase property taxes. A TEDD simply ensures any increases in tax revenue stay in the area to fund infrastructure improvements, rather than going toward the general budgets of local taxing jurisdictions.

    **The purpose of heavy industrial is to provide places where the manufacturing, processing, storage and distribution of goods and services can occur freely with limited impacts to nearby districts related to noise, dust, odor and clutter. This district accommodates a range of industrial uses including heavy manufacturing, processing, fabrication, solid waste disposal, power generation, pipeline terminals and similar uses. The purpose of light industrial is to provide opportunities for light industrial, artisan and limited commercial activities with minimal off-site impacts. This is why residents who live near the log yard requested a light industrial buffer.

  • The West Riverside Leadership Team

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    The West Riverside Leadership Team is made up of West Riverside community members. They:

    • Learn about community infrastructure opportunities from Missoula County and technical experts
    • Act as a liaison to your community to help organize community listening and engagement opportunities to understand community hopes and fears around infrastructure

    The West Riverside Leadership Team members are:

    • Kali Hannon
    • Dylan Huisken
    • Virginia "Ginny" Woods
    • Jess Glebke
    • Erik Lesch
    • Chandra Brown
    • Robert Miller
    • Rebecca "Becky" Velde
    • Shannon Smallwood
    • Chris Newman
    • Chryssa Velde
    • Dan Jimenez
    • Megan Jennings
    • Thomas Beers