Bereavement and boils aside, part-time pastor Glen Moyer has had occasion of late to practice his own scaled-down version of Job’s famous patience. The long-running, unasked-for lesson comes courtesy of his neighbors and the house he began building on the corner of Fairview Avenue and Thames Street in June 2005. On Nov. 14, 2006—16 months into a project that was supposed to take four—Moyer gladly gives a tour around the house that’s now nearing completion. Just the floors and bits of trim remain undone, and a for-sale sign hangs in the front yard, though the legal brawl between his neighbors and the city over his house continues.
When small-scale developer Moyer broke ground on a lot he had purchased that was 600 feet shy of fulfilling neighborhood zoning, Moyer unwittingly wound up in the midst of Missoula’s debate over infill, the building of new, more densely placed homes in older neighborhoods. After the home was framed in June 2005, the city ordered Moyer to cease construction after neighbors Dennis and Barbara Druffel appealed the city’s granting of the building permit, saying the lot didn’t satisfy zoning requirements. In July, the city’s Board of Adjustment agreed that the city had erred, and said Moyer couldn’t finish his partially built house. The house sat accruing debt for nearly a year while Moyer sought a variance from the city, which he won—a decision again appealed by the Druffels, this time to District Court. In August 2006, the court ruled in the city’s and Moyer’s favor, and Moyer once again lined up his contractors and resumed construction, only to hear in mid-October that the Druffels had again appealed, this time to the Montana Supreme Court.
Caught in a clash that concerns his neighbors’ take on city actions, Moyer still isn’t sure whether he’ll recoup the losses that had him, as recently as August, struggling to pay his bills. This is the first lawsuit he’s been involved with, he says, and he’s still mystified about how he ended up here.
“It makes me feel dirty somehow, like I’m an unethical guy, so to be stuck in the middle of this has been hard,” says Moyer, explaining how his profession as a pastor makes him particularly uneasy with litigation, since he’s publicly regarded as “more than just some dude.” Nevertheless, Moyer insists with a smile, “it hasn’t dampened my view of humankind.”