Residents of two Billings neighborhoods turned out in force at Monday night's City Council meeting.
A West End neighborhood rallied against a proposed multifamily development on Shiloh Road and Grand Avenue, while South Side residents urged the council to allow a special review to permit a sandblasting business on Washington Street.
Council chambers were packed Monday where public hearings were held on both issues. More than a dozen people — mostly neighbors to the Goodman Subdivision — spoke against a zone change from residential and residential professional to residential multifamily restricted and community commercial on 27 acres of land at Shiloh Road and Grand Avenue.
Congestion concerns The City County Zoning Commission recommended denial of the zone change because of concerns about congestion and the possibility of high density, tall buildings. A valid protest by the owners of 26 nearby lots has been filed in the case.
The City Council voted 8-1 to continue the public hearing and delay the decision on the zone change until its Aug. 25 meeting. At that time, the developer plans to present a new plat for the subdivision.
"I'd like to send the developer back out to the community to work something out," Ward 5 council member Don Jones said. "I've heard a few comments that they may be able to work this out."
Neighbors to the proposed Goodman Subdivision said they did not want their homes and property to serve as a buffer between the multifamily units and the rest of the neighborhood. The property, owned and farmed by the Goodman family since 1942, was originally platted and zoned in 1994, and neighbors to the property said they bought their homes expecting the zoning to stay single-family residential.
Changing the rules "I don't believe that it's fair to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game," said Carl Anderson, who lives on 43rd Street West.
Landowner Jerry Goodman said taxes on the property have climbed so high that he couldn't afford to farm the land anymore and decided to develop it. He said he's willing to work with the neighborhood to address their concerns, yet he wants to put the land to good use.
The City Council approved a special review to allow Wright's Custom Repair to continue sandblasting at its facility at 5 Washington St. where the business has been for almost two years. The City Council voted to exclude a condition recommended by Zoning Commission to limit the hours the business can sandblast, but kept the condition that sandblasting only take place inside and that the operation comply with air quality standards.
The family-owned business drew several supporters, most of whom live nearby. They said it is quiet and clean and that the owners, Barry and Colleen Wright, have built a business that is an asset to the South Side.
The business was started 28 years ago by Frank and Shirley Wright in the North Park neighborhood. The business uses copper sandblasting not silica, which can cause lung disease.
Duane Clark, vice president of the Southwest Corridor Task Force, said the task force voted in June to send its "overwhelming approval" of Wright's Custom Repair. Others complimented the Wrights for cleaning up the property where the business is located and for helping restore bicycles for neighborhood kids.
In other business Monday night, the City Council directed staff to compile information necessary to reopen two Billings wading pools and have it available at a special meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in council chamber. Ward 4 council member Doris Poppler said she made the same request months ago.
"I've been going past Veteran's Park and Highland Park and seeing those two wading pools empty and dry," Poppler said. "I move we fill the two little pools for the summer and hire four lifeguards to staff them."
Ward 4 council member Mick Ohnstad reminded fellow council members that the wading pools were closed because they violated state health codes. Mayor Chuck Tooley asked city staff to find out how the pools could be reopened without violating health codes. Poppler suggested that the pools be emptied and filled each day.
The City Council held a closed session after the regular council meeting to discuss the three finalists for the city administrator position. The public may listen to the discussion on the candidates at Wednesday's meeting. The three finalists are acting city administrator Kristoff Bauer, D. Craig Whitehead of Sioux City, Iowa, and John F. Fischbach, city administrator of Fort Collins, Colo.