The Billings City Council laid the groundwork Monday to potentially expand the city limits in the coming years.
By a 10-0 vote, with Al Swanson absent, the city council voted to revise the Limits of Annexation map to include two properties with a potential to be annexed in the next few years.
Those properties are identified as the Knife River property, 447 acres near Shiloh Road and Hesper Road, and the Elysian Road area property, 290 acres near Elysian Road and East Lane.
Monday’s vote does not mean the properties will be annexed anytime soon. Rather, city officials have a process for identifying which properties are likely to be annexed; a committee studies the potential impacts of annexation on infrastructure, public safety and other considerations before the matter is brought to the city council, which has the ultimate authority to approve or disapprove any annexation.
Even though she ultimately voted for the revision to the map, council member Becky Bird said the city council has heard “strong statements” from the police and fire chiefs, “who will be asking for a public safety levy” to add to their departments in the face of consistent Billings population growth. “Annexation is no small matter, resource-wise,” she said. “It’s a bigger issue than just infrastructure.”
But her colleague, Jani McCall, called the system for studying potential impacts to annexation “a very exact, methodical process. None of this will happen until they come to us to discuss the kinds of issues you are talking about.”
“If we are going to have growth,” said city administrator Tina Volek, “An orderly process to take in parcels is desirable. This is a good process that the staff works very hard on. It’s as good an approach as I have seen to make sure we do this methodically.”
Zoning change voted down
Like the Zoning Commission before them, members of the city council voted unanimously to deny a zoning change request that would have allowed a mobile home to be placed on a property at 625 N. 15th St.
The property at one point contained two mobile home, but the homes deteriorated over time and were removed by 2010. The property owner didn’t realize that a mobile home must be replaced within one year to maintain its legal nonconforming use, according to a report by Candi Millar, Planning and Community Services Department director.
Neighbors told the city council Monday that allowing the zoning change would be, as Carol Moore of Billings said, “detrimental to surrounding neighbors. Mistakes were made, but mistakes need to be corrected, not compounded.”
Another neighbor, John Armstrong of Billings, who helped draft the North Park Neighborhood Plan, said he and his neighbors “are working really hard in this neighborhood to improve things. We are passionate about trying to improve this neighborhood.”