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Non-development on White Pine

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The White Pine Sash property near the Scott St. bridge will not be developed into residential units after all—at least not by the Sparrow Group LLC, and not in conjunction with the Human Resource Council (HRC), a non-profit that serves lower-income residents of Missoula, Mineral and Ravalli counties.

“It ended up costing more than was financially feasible,” says Tim German with the Sparrow Group, which had planned to develop the northern portion of the property.

“We spent almost $200,000,” he says. It wasn’t nearly enough. After the clean-up cost estimate jumped from $500,000 to $1.7 million, says German, Sparrow backed out.

German won’t answer too many questions about how the deal fell apart over the last few months. HRC Director Jim Morton explains: Because the city denied the Sparrow Group a loan to clean up the property, he says, Sparrow was forced to kill the project. HRC, which was working with Sparrow and had been granted $660,000 by the city toward the purchase of 54 lots, subsequently voted to put that grant money elsewhere, he says.

It was the Missoula City-County Health Department that originally requested the site be designated a Superfund cleanup in 1993, says the department’s Peter Nielsen. The Health Department is not directly involved in regulating White Pine Sash, says Nielsen, but it is the department’s responsibility to “protect public health and environmental quality.” The department raised concerns over the course of the year about building residences on the northern site. The proposal to build houses, he says, which came together last summer, might not have been timely, given that a final clean-up plan had yet to be approved. “One could argue that it was…premature,” he says.

Mike Stevenson is a partner with Scott Street Development, which currently owns the northern portion of the White Pine Sash site. (The city owns the southern and likely more contaminated portion, and has requested that the site be zoned industrial, which allows for a higher level of toxicity.)

Stevenson says he isn’t overly concerned about Sparrow Group’s decision to back out because the property will only appreciate. Specific plans for the site are up in the air.

“Future use of our property is still undetermined,” Stevenson confirms.

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