Future neighbors of the Poverello Center scratched their heads last week when the Missoula City Board of Adjustment killed a proposal that would have created more public parking and a larger courtyard for the new West Broadway homeless shelter.
"I did not understand," says Ford Johnson, who owns Ken's Barber Shop on Cedar Street behind the shelter's new location. "I thought it was a slam-dunk."
Crews are slated to begin tearing down the old Trail's End Bar this week, making way for the new Pov. A key portion of the shelter's design hinged on the board's decision, explained Pov Director Eran Fowler Pehan during last week's meeting.
"When working with the community over our site-selection plan...one thing that continued to come to the forefront was the need for us to maintain appropriate outdoor space for our clients to congregate, to prevent inappropriate congregation in other areas," she said.
To help make room for the courtyard, the Pov asked the board for permission to create two private parking spots, rather than the 17 mandated by city code. Fowler Pehan noted that most Pov clients don't drive. The YWCA, an immediate neighbor, testified in favor of the proposal, as did the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and Johnson. No one spoke against it.
Board Vice Chair Michael Kopitzke says he voted against the variance because he didn't believe that the Pov had shown the parking mandate subjected it to hardship, a prerequisite for approval.
As part of the variance request, the Pov offered to swap a slice of its land along Cedar Street with the city in exchange for property owned by the city to the east, enabling space for roughly 24 additional public parking places to augment the Pov's two private ones. Board staffers estimated the variance denial would leave the neighborhood with nine fewer overall spots than if the proposal was approved.
Kopitzke says that those estimates were too vague for him to gauge benefit. "We need to have something a little more concrete," he says.
Fowler Pehan acknowledges that the board's decision disappointed her, but points out that at least the new courtyard will be three times the size of the Pov's existing one.
"We're still really confident that it's going to be a beautiful building," she says, "and that our outdoor space is going to be adequate."