A divided community is calling for a comprehensive agricultural policy in Missoula County. A parcel of land in Target Range could start setting a precedent.
A developer wants to build 11 houses on 28 acres. But commissioners say Reilly Acres subdivision proposal should be re-worked to lessen its impact on agriculture and irrigation water.
Commissioners said the proposed housing development stays within zoning laws. But the county wants developers to figure out how they can mitigate the loss of ag land and irrigation water.
There would be 12 lots with a minimum one acre lot size. Most of the flat land proposed for development is prime soil.
"Less than 2% of the land area in Missoula County has these prime, if irrigated soils," said Community Food and Ag Coaltion's Neva Hassanein, "yet we've already seen a lot of these subdivided over the last several decades."
One of the landowners, Bob Rangitsch, said the soil is conducive to farming.But he said the feasibility of farming such a small property doesn't make economic sense.
The Rangitsch family has already subdivided the land adjacent to Reilly Acres.
"This subdivision is compatible with the established land use pattern adjacent to the immediate vicinity of the project," said developer's representative, Greg Martinsen.
"We're trying to talk about maintaining a resource that has potential as time goes by to provide income and food for Missoula," said Target Range resident Fred Stewart.
The developer's attorney, Alan McCormick said, "in this case there are no significant agricultural uses adjacent to this property that could be impacted by this development."
All sides of the debate conclude that Missoula needs a comprehensive ag policy.