What is the purpose of this project?

    The City is looking at the Subdivision and TED processes to understand ways they could be improved.  A final Recommendations Report that outlines policy options and recommendations will be completed and presented to City Council / the Land Use and Planning Committee. The project will explore best practices in the subdivision processes in the state and western region, as well as four (4) case studies of local projects, to inform the work and recommendations report.  We have a Working Group to help guide the process, which includes representatives from City Council, Planning Board, the development community, businesses, real estate, the natural resource field, and neighborhoods. 

    Will this project result in immediate changes to the subdivision regulations or TED regulations?

    No, this project does not include immediate changes to regulation language. Through this comprehensive review, the City will have a set of recommendations for how to change the regulations and a set of priorities for determining which regulations should be revised. This project will result in a summary Recommendations Report outlining recommended future steps. 

    Will this project result in rezoning areas of the city?

    While we recognize that a discussion about how land is developed through subdivision is related to what can be developed through zoning and other tools, this project will not change zoning.  

    Will this project include a discussion about setting new development policies?

    While we recognize that an assessment of how land is developed through subdivision relates to how policies are implemented, the focus of this project is on aligning with current policy and determining ways to inform and act on those policies. We may discover other issues that need review and resolution, but we’ll remain focused on the review of the subdivision and TED regulations and use the process to inform future steps.

    What is Subdivision?

    A subdivision is the process through which land is divided into new parcels, created from existing larger areas of land. New parcels that are created through subdivision have their own legal descriptions and are available for individual ownership or otherwise conveyed. The process of dividing land into parcels is a necessary and important function in the management of growth within a community. Establishing when, where, and how land is divided occurs in a community will influence development for generations. 

    The subdivision review process allows the community to take a close look at development before it is given final consideration by City Council. It involves review of submittal information, conducting a neighborhood meeting to receive comment on the project, agency review and consideration, and governing body final review to either approve, approve with conditions or deny the project. The public review process results in potential approval of a preliminary plat.  Once a preliminary plat is approved, the applicant has time to address any conditions, establish the infrastructure needed and file the final plat documents.  Once a final plat is approved, the applicant may begin selling parcels. Often times, subdivisions are phased, meaning the development is broken out into portions that are filed sequentially so that the project is built in an orderly manner. Where do the existing subdivision regulations come from?

    The subdivision process is regulated based on state statutes through the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act (MSPA) Montana Code Annotated Tile 76, Chapter 3. (The sections from the MSPA that are relevant to this project are provided in the Documents tab). The MSPA state laws apply statewide. State law has specific standards and timelines for review of subdivision applications which include pre-application meeting, neighborhood meeting, element review, sufficiency review, governing body review and decision, phased development, record of preliminary plat approval decision, and final plat review. Local regulations must be consistent with state laws and may also provide additional guidance. The city subdivision regulations must also be adopted in accordance with the Our Missoula Growth Policy 2035 (also linked to in the Documents tab).

    Are there different types of Subdivisions?

    There are two main types of subdivision – a minor subdivision and a major subdivision.  The minor subdivision is a process established for smaller subdivision projects, involving 5 or fewer proposed new parcels.  A major subdivision is for projects proposing 6 or more parcels.  The level or submittal information and the amount of time for review varies depending on the type of subdivision.  A minor subdivision is required to receive a decision by the City Council within 35 business days of acceptance of a sufficient application.  A major subdivision with fewer than 50 parcels is required to receive a decision by the City Council within 60 business days of acceptance of a sufficient application. A major subdivision with more than 50 parcels is required to receive a decision by the City Council within 80 business days of acceptance of a sufficient application.

    What is a subdivision exemption?

    Subdivision exemptions are intended to relieve landowners from the requirements of local review when the division of land either creates a parcel or parcels that are highly unlikely to cause adverse impacts that would need to be reviewed and mitigated. State law (MCA 76-3-Part 2) includes a list of available exemptions from the subdivision process. The oldest of these exemptions is the Family Transfer, which is when an existing tract of land is divided into smaller properties to pass down to children or other family members. Another exemption that is used frequently is the Boundary Line Relocation, which is when existing lot lines are redrawn, without increasing the total number of lots. Townhome Exemption Development (TED) is a newer example of subdivision exemption, enacted by the 2011 state legislature.  

    The level of information submitted, extent of review, and consideration of potential evasion varies depending on the type of exemption being sought. Because all land is required to go through a subdivision process, the statutes include provisions to ensure property owners are not evading or avoiding required subdivision processes. In some cases, the City Council has the authority and duty to evaluate and determine from all circumstances whether the proposed division of land is based on an intent to evade subdivision review. The proper use of an exemption will not conflict with the purposes of the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act (MSPA) or the Montana Sanitation in Subdivision Act (MSIS).

    What is a Townhome Exemption Development (TED)?

    The Townhome Exemption Development (TED), is a type of Subdivision Exemption. The TED was enacted by the state legislature in 2011 and allows developments that create townhouses or condominiums to be exempt from subdivision in certain circumstances. The proposal needs to comply with local zoning. The exemption is enacted differently around Montana (in some locations it is not allowed at all), but in Missoula, it has been embraced as an alternative approach to regulating development that would otherwise go through the subdivision process. Properties created through TED are legally described through a Declaration that is filed on the piece of property that the TED is created on (the TED Parcel), and are termed TED Ownership Units (TOUs). TOUs are owned individually, but remain legally connected to the original TED Parcel through the TED Declaration. The TED exemption is defined in MCA 76-3-203 and reflected in Missoula’s zoning code (Title 20).

    How are Townhome Exemption Development (TED) projects reviewed by the City?

    The City of Missoula has allowed the use of the Townhome Exemption Development (TED) since the subdivision exemption was originally enacted in 2011. Since then, the City has gone through several iterations of how TED is addressed through zoning. Originally, it led to review of projects as multi-dwelling developments through an administrative review for projects of any size. In 2016, the City developed specific standards for TED projects and required a conditional use approval for larger projects. At that time, the City clarified the use of the exemption could not apply to multi-dwelling developments, and projects that include attached residential units have to comply with existing townhouse design standards. The most recent zoning update related to TED was in October of 2019. The current standards for TED allow for an administrative review (removing the conditional use process), and approval of residential projects up to a certain size within any standard zoning district. Projects over a certain size are not permitted. The entire set of standards and definitions for TEDs can be found in the attached ordinance in the Documents tab, or in section 20.40.180 of the zoning code, also linked to from the Documents tab. (Townhouse building standards are found in 20.40.140).

    How can I engage with this process?

    There are number of ways to be involved:

    • Ask a question or provide a comment through the Q&A tool on this Engage Missoula page. All comments received will be provided to the project consultants, and questions will be answered by the project staff.
    • Follow this project! When you sign up to Stay Informed on the sidebar, you will receive a notification any time this page is added to, and included in all communications that are sent out about the project.
    • Public Comment: Key dates and the Project Timeline are also listed on the sidebar, and contain details on when important community outreach and comment periods will be happening for this project.
    • You can always contact the staff person identified under Who’s Listening to ask questions or discuss further.