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City twisted on Terrace

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After extended wrangling, the Missoula City Council Monday night unanimously approved the 38-lot Clark Fork Terrace subdivision south of Interstate 90 near the Canyon River Golf Course. The move secures a 300-foot riverfront easement, which, if the city gets its way, will become part of a public trail system that connects an extended Kim Williams Trail with the Clark Fork River.

The development approved Monday night, dubbed "Clark Fork Terrace One," is part of a larger project planned by Bob Brugh's firm, Neighborhood by Design. The firm also aims to build 33 additional homes on 47.38 adjacent acres.

That portion of the subdivision is hung up in Missoula District Court after Brugh sued the city over one of two trail easement requirements the city imposed as a condition of approval. The stipulation would force Brugh to give up a slice of his property in exchange for council approval, essentially making him hand over land without fair compensation, says Neighborhood by Design attorney Alan McCormick.

"That's not a legitimate use of government power," argues McCormick.

The city maintains the development itself triggers the need for a more cohesive trail system capable of easing traffic concerns. And as the lawsuit churns on, some council members say they aren't thrilled to do business again with Neighborhood by Design.

"I'm a firm believer that you don't negotiate with someone once they start suing you," says Councilman Jon Wilkins.

But Monday's subdivision approval triggers an agreement with adjacent property owner Canyon River, prompting it to build an additional portion of trail along the river. The Clark Fork Terrace subdivision, which sits between the Milltown Dam site and additional trails, prompted the council to suck it up and approve the project.

"In other words, my arm is being twisted on this one," Wilkins says.

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