Sympathy for the developer 

The Montana Board of Regents on Tuesday shot down the University of Montana’s plans to build a 588-unit retirement community on UM’s south campus in Missoula.

In a 5-2 vote, the regents voted against the proposal after a marathon public hearing in which only a handful of supporters expressed a desire to see the project continue.

UM Vice President of Finance and Administration Bob Duringer said he won’t pursue a project like this again. He said there is a “major disconnect in the works” when hang gliding and golfing take precedent over efforts to make the university more affordable for students.

“We’re going to have to reconsider everything we do in the future,” Duringer told the Independent Tuesday. “To be met by this kind of anti-creative attitude was surprising.”

Regent Chairman John Mercer apologized to UM officials and developer Walt Brett after the board vote and said he was concerned that the University misled Brett. Mercer indicated that the private developer spent about $350,000 on planning, although Brett declined to comment on his out-of-pocket losses after the meeting.

Brett also declined to comment on whether he was misled, but it was clear he didn’t expect the outcome he got.

“It’s a setback, but that’s what life’s all about,” Brett said.

The board was critical of the fact that Tuesday’s meeting was the first time they were given any detailed information about the project. Mercer said the project had gone too far without regent involvement.

“This is the first time I’ve ever met or spoken to the regents,” Brett confirmed afterward. “I was told [by UM officials] that was the best thing to do. So I respected that.”

Brett fronted the money for the planning, yet he says he did not have control over the process, including the extent to which students, regents and members of the community were involved in the planning discussions.

“In the private sector I would never do something like that. I would want to control everything,” he said.

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