Some may be surprised to learn that nearby communities like Frenchtown and Lolo—towns for all intents and purposes, what with their commercial centers and clear demarcations—haven’t yet officially established their status through the process of incorporation.
More surprising, then, is the move afoot on Missoula’s southwestern edge to turn a square mile in the Target Range area into a town, Missoula County’s first incorporated community besides Missoula itself.
Missoula County Commissioners held a public hearing March 2 on residents’ petition to form the town of Target Range, the boundaries of which would be Mount and South avenues and Humble and Clements roads.
Jerry Berens, who’s leading the effort as spokesman of Maintain Our Rural Environment and president of the Target Range Homeowners Association, says the neighborhood recently kicked its efforts into high gear to avoid being annexed by the city and to preserve the area’s semi-rural way of life. Incorporation allows a town to chart its own destiny through zoning and local government, and Berens says that’s the best way to keep Missoula out of Target Range backyards.
“Missoula’s growing so much…that it will grow up to the boundaries of any town that exists because it has this insatiable desire for more growth,” says Berens, who lives outside the boundaries of the proposed town, but says he would petition for annexation “in a heartbeat.”
County Commissioners took no action on the petition because the last of four requirements—that Missoula City Council approve the town, since it’s within three miles of city boundaries—has yet to be fulfilled. Should Council approve incorporation, an election among Target Range residents would be the next step. But gaining Council approval may prove a significant hurdle.
Council President Ed Childers says the idea would be intriguing if an actual town—with commercial and educational opportunities for its residents—were proposed. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and so Childers says he won’t likely support it.
“The folks who want to do it don’t have the intentions to make a town—they want to make a non-town right next to the city so they don’t have to do the things you have to do when you join a town,” he says.