When City Council voted on the annexation of the controversial Chickasaw Place subdivision March 2, most members voted without
hesitation. But Ward 2 Councilmember Pam Walzer, who had backed the measure in committee, looked torn as her name was called. She paused for a breath, then voted against the development, which would have allowed a new subdivision on prime Missoula soil. The annexation failed, 7-5, one vote short of the super-majority required to pass.
“It was to me a lose-lose situation,” said Walzer a day after the decision. “No matter how I voted, there would be consequences that could be quite extreme.”
Walzer commended Chickasaw developer George Lake for offering to protect three acres of agricultural land on the plot north of Seventh Street. But ultimately she felt the importance of locally grown food in our communities and the rural appeal of the Orchard Homes neighborhood won out.
“I did not vote to deny annexation to encourage one house per acre,” she said. “All that’s doing is supporting McMansions.”
However, as subdivisions spring up, Walzer said adjacent landowners sometimes decide to move. Occasionally, they sell their land to other developers who create more subdivisions. And sometimes, those subdivisions, like Lake’s, stand on prime agricultural land.
“When do we say enough is enough?” Walzer said. “I guess last night, I said, ‘Enough.’”
Kristin Smith, who works for Lake’s planning agency, says her client hasn’t made a decision about the future of his land.
“You can imagine if you were in his shoes, it would be pretty frustrating,” she says. “I don’t think [the council] left him with many options other than turning to the county.”