A proposal to use development impact fees to improve a small, underutilized downtown park in Missoula sparked a broader discussion about the city’s plans in the area, investing in low-income neighborhoods and homelessness.
A high-level Missoula parks and recreation staff member and other city officials defended a decision to plan for nearly $950,000 in improvements to the Downtown Lions Park, an area that’s also a part of a key bike and pedestrian connection.
The debate ensued because a member of the city’s impact fee advisory committee, Hank Trotter, criticized the plan. He said the park is often used by homeless citizens and there aren’t many new housing units planned nearby in the near future. That means there aren’t many families and children that would use the park if it’s improved, especially considering there are other parks nearby, he claimed.
However, city parks officials and other members of the committee argue it’s important to invest in the park because it’s in a low-income neighborhood and has been underutilized.
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On June 7, after a lengthy discussion, the committee voted 5-1 to approve $150,000 in impact fee funding for preliminary design costs to