Billings City Council to take up FedEx issues again

2013-03-24T22:15:00Z 2013-04-09T07:31:05Z Billings City Council to take up FedEx issues againBy ED KEMMICK ekemmick@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The fate of a FedEx Ground transportation hub could be decided by the Billings City Council Monday night.

Last month, the council postponed action on an annexation and zone change request submitted by representatives of FedEx.

Both those requests are back on the agenda for Monday night. The meeting starts at 6:30 on the second floor of City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.

The council is also scheduled to take up an annexation and zone change request on another piece of property on the West End and to vote on whether to continue leasing some parkland to a nonprofit youth foundation.

FedEx is proposing to annex 97 acres of vacant land on the northwest corner of Gabel and Hesper roads. If the annexation is approved, FedEx also wants the zoning changed, from open space-agricultural to controlled industrial, so it could build a $37 million transportation hub on 50 of the acres.

The first round of voting was postponed because representatives of FedEx and neighboring landowners were still trying to come to some sort of agreement on the look of the building, landscaping, air quality and traffic congestion.

At the end of last week, those negotiations were continuing.

The annexation request will be acted on first. If that is approved, the council will then take up the zone change request. Public hearings on both items were continued from the earlier meeting, so testimony will be taken on both issues Monday night.

The other annexation and zone change request is for 64 acres of mostly vacant land at 1228 and 1236 Mullowney Lane. The landowner, Elizabeth Zeiler, is asking for a change from a mix of agricultural open space and highway commercial to all highway commercial.

There are no specific development plans for the property yet, but zoning it all highway commercial would make it identical to the zoning on city land to the east and north and land in the county to the south.

The area around the property has been developed for a variety of uses allowed under the highway commercial zoning, including service businesses, hotels and restaurants, in addition to more intensive uses, such as pre-stressed concrete manufacturing, distribution warehouses and heavy contractors.

The council will also consider the status of a lease affecting a portion of Centennial Park on the West End. It is being leased to the Billings Community Youth Foundation, which had hoped to develop two ice-skating rinks on the site, but the foundation has failed to meet terms of the lease agreement.

After discussion of the issue at a recent council work session, the council asked staff to prepare a notice of default, which will be voted on Monday.

In the wake of other discussions at work sessions, the council will also vote on spending what remains of a transfer of $1.8 million from the special improvement district revolving loan fund to the general fund last year.

The money was transferred after it was determined that the SID loan fund had grown larger than allowed. The council previously agreed to spend $600,000 to upgrade the city's radio system and $87,650 to add new water slides to the Rose Park pool.

Proposed expenditures to be voted on Monday include $600,000 to upgrade software for public safety departments; $81,000 to upgrade City Hall lighting, which will more than be made up for in rebates from Northwestern Energy; $216,000 for upgraded lighting in seven fire stations and a new boiler in in station 2; and $250,000 for a Home Reinvestment Revolving Loan program in the Community Development Division.

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