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Friendship house

The Billings Zoning Commission approved special review earlier this month that, with the city council's blessing Monday, will allow Friendship House of Christian Service to construct a parking lot just north of its Eighth Avenue South facility.

A public review to allow Friendship House of Christian Service a variance to construct a parking lot kitty-corner from its South Side location tops the agenda for Monday’s Billings City Council business meeting.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.

Friendship House wants to build a parking lot across Eighth Avenue South from its location, at 3123 Eighth Ave. S. It’s proposing accessing the parking lot, where it plans to park its vans and bus, from South 31st Street and exit using the alley.

The city’s site development ordinance requires that the alley be paved from the agency’s exit to the nearest street, Eighth Avenue South. Friendship House, which is a Christian ministry that serves Billings youth from preschool to high school, seeks a variance from this requirement.

In a memo, Public Works Director Dave Mumford wrote that the requirement to pave alleys used for commercial access is in place to prevent gravel from being dragged onto city streets and to decrease maintenance in alleys. In this case, Friendship House would have to pave about 50 feet.

The city engineer’s office recommends the council deny Friendship House's variance request.

Special review is required because Friendship House wants to build the parking lot in a Residential zoning district. A report by Planning Division Manager Monica Plecker notes Friendship House plans to remove older structures on the property “to create an aesthetically pleasing parking area” that will free up on-street parking in the neighborhood and make loading and unloading vehicles safer for the children Friendship House serves.

The Zoning Commission unanimously approved special review Feb. 6 with seven proposed conditions, including the construction of a sight-obscuring fence along the south property line.

City administrator agreement

The final draft of the employment agreement with acting city administrator Bruce McCandless indicates a proposed $160,000 salary. It also reflects McCandless’ desire to resign by Dec. 31 or sooner if the council selects a permanent successor to Tina Volek before then.

By consensus during last week’s work session, the council decided to reissue a request for proposals to select another executive search firm. Salary talks with the council’s previously-selected candidate, Great Falls City Manager Greg Doyon, broke down in December, and Doyon then removed himself from consideration.

A proposed schedule to select the new administrator calls for the council to select finalists in early August and interview the finalists and make its selection later that month.

The council would then approve an employment agreement in early September, with the new administrator reporting for work in October.

Consent agenda

Among the items to be considered as part of Monday’s consent agenda:

  • Awarding a contract for about $794,000 to Askin Construction of Billings to overlay roads and add curbing in the Poet Streets neighborhood. Three other firms bid on the project.
  • Approving the annual budget and fee structure for Amend Park, the city’s soccer facility managed and maintained by the Amend Park Development Council. There are no changes from the 2017 fee structure.
  • Approving an approximately $135,000 utility agreement with the state for a new water line installation at Highway 3 and Zimmerman Trail, where the Montana Department of Transportation plans to install a roundabout. Water revenues will cover the cost.
  • Approving a resolution of intent to create a special improvement district to place nearly $1.9 million in streetlights along streets within the East Billings Urban Renewal District. Streetlights will be installed on most of the streets from N. 10th Street to N. 22nd Street and from Montana Avenue to Sixth Avenue N. The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on establishing the special improvement district on March 26.
  • Approving a grant application of up to $150,000 to help pay for improvements to the Rose Park playground.
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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.