The proposal would see a new golf course; 2,000 housing units, shops in Larchmont


According to the proposal, the developers would transform the Larchmont golf course into a new neighborhood with a target of 2,000 new homes, new doctor’s offices and business opportunities. They would give the county 157 nearby acres for a new route. (photo of Larchmont golf course)

Calling it an opportunity to solve Missoula’s housing crisis on a transformational scale, a team of developers on Monday unveiled a proposal to redevelop the Larchmont golf course with a mix of housing, commercial and medical facilities.

A new 18-hole golf course could be built to replace Larchmont on the neighboring property, as well as trails, a new lodge and a boat launch on the Bitterroot River. The existing course is only used seasonally and does not serve the highest and best use of the community given its housing need, the developers argue.

But the Larchmont golfing community on Monday expressed opposition to starting a new course, and county commissioners have handed the developers the responsibility of securing public support for their proposal as it unfolds. form.

The county will be developing a work plan over the next few weeks to help answer a long list of questions. A decision could take at least a year.

“This is a transformation of the landscape on a generational scale,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “There is no way to move forward without going through a thorough and real public process, and giving developers a chance to develop a plan that the golf community would really love, and a chance for the golf community to develop. ‘get their details in a row also. “

As proposed, the developers would give the county 157 acres located nearby on Highway 93 in exchange for the Larchmont golf course. The course is located next to Reserve Street in an existing commercial corridor close to municipal services, public transportation, public parks and a medical center.

The proposed new golf course is in undeveloped land that cannot be built on due to its location in the floodplain. But it could serve as a recreational attraction, according to WGM Group, which represents the developers.

“We wouldn’t open this discussion without having an alternate location to bring to the table for Larchmont,” said Jeff Smith, senior engineer at WGM Group. “This basic idea is a concept that allows Missoula workers to stay in Missoula and not be moved by the ever increasing cost of renting or owning a home in Missoula.”

According to the proposal, the developers would transform the Larchmont golf course into a new neighborhood with a target of 2,000 new homes, new doctor’s offices and business opportunities.

Of the 2,000 housing units proposed, approximately 800 would be owner-occupied single-family homes built on a community land trust to protect affordability. The project would also include 300 to 400 multi-family dwellings targeting less than 80% of the median income in the region, as well as 450 residences for the elderly.

Kate Dinsmore of the WGM Group said the project will create enough accessible and affordable housing to start moving the dial in Missoula. The median price of a house in the city now stands at over $ 400,000 per year – a price that far exceeds the reach of local wages.

Many residents of Missoula have been excluded from the existing market. About 25% of landlords are considered to have a financial burden, as are 50% of tenants, which means that more than 30% of their income is spent on housing.

“We all know house prices exceed wages in Missoula,” Dinsmore said. “But the increased supply along with the economies of scale within this development will help smooth out escalating prices in single-family homes and apartments living in the community. We also have an aging population and there is a need for the elderly in the community.

The increase in the city’s housing stock on such a large scale and within city limits near existing services and two major transportation corridors has made housing advocates anxious to see the proposal approved.

But a number of questions remain unanswered, such as the value of Larchmont’s 152-acre course, the value of the 157 acres planned for a new course, who will design and build the new course, and how the public can be assured of affordable and accessible housing is part of any new development.

“If this were to go forward, it would be a very long process,” said Emily Brock, director of economic development and land for Missoula County. “Larchmont is a valuable public facility with enormous use. The county will take a measured and considered approach to any idea to develop it. However, this is a bold proposition that could add significant housing supply to our market. “

A screenshot of a first rendering of the proposed housing development.

Out of the gate, at least, the board of directors that oversees the Larchmont golf course has already voted unanimously to oppose the proposal. Several members spoke out against the concept on Monday, saying the idea should not be explored at all.

While there is a need for housing in Missoula, they said, moving away from a public golf course is a bad idea, even if it can be replaced with a new, more modern and efficient course.

“I don’t think replacing it is a viable option because of the work it takes and the time it takes to develop and evolve a golf course,” said Bill Galiher, Director of Golf at Larchmont. “We have people who have been playing there for 40 years waiting for our trees to grow. Moving to a site that takes another 40 years to develop and grow wouldn’t be fair to the people who developed that place.

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, a former member of Larchmont’s board of directors, said he sympathizes with the golf community.

“I fully understand and sympathize with the concerns of the golf community and of those who have invested time, energy, money and a large part of their lives into this facility,” he said. . “I can’t think of a project I’ve been lukewarm on in the last few days. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue with the public process and get concrete answers to any questions we might have. “

The increase in the city’s housing stock played a secondary role amid fears of losing the Larchmont route on Monday, which marked the first public hearing on the proposal.

The developers suggested that a new course could be professionally designed and include a number of amenities that the existing course lacks. This could include a more sustainable irrigation system, bike and walking trails, winter skiing, a boat launch, as well as a pro shop and restaurant that also serves as a community center in the winter. . It could also include golf simulators for the winter season.

Some golfers have expressed their support.

“I know you have heard negative comments from people heavily invested in the Larchmont golf community about the idea of ​​changing the way golf works in Missoula, but there are other golfers who live in Missoula and love golf and are interested in significant architecture. New golf course, ”said a caller identified as Jessie.


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