MISSOULA – Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick believes Missoula is on the cusp of some challenging times, as the county wrestles with issues including growth, affordable housing and climate change.
But he’s a firm believer the community is up to keeping this a “wonderful” place to live while providing opportunities for everyone.
Slotnick is just wrapping up his first month in office but he’s already excited about the work ahead, including implementing Missoula County’s new land use maps.
“Out of this land use map is going to come some zoning changes and some tweaks to subdivision regs,” Slotnick said. “And I’d love to see us build into all of that, affordable housing and ag land preservation and thinking how we can be resilient in the face of climate change.”
Slotnick has long been an advocate for issues like preserving open space and agricultural lands and as he believes it’s critical for the county to not only address the next phase of local growth but larger issues as well — such as climate change and the threats from disasters like wildfires and floods.
“We’re rapidly becoming — if we haven’t already become — a place that is on the map. People want to live here. It costs a lot to live here. Wages haven’t caught up,” Slotnick told MTN News.
“We’re facing a whole different set of issues then we were 20 or 30 years ago. And add to this fires and floods. And how do we make sure Missoula County is a wonderful place to live 10-to-15 years from now. Not just wonderful, but a place where anybody can live,” he added.
Toward the top of that “to do” list is working with the other commissioners, the City of Missoula, other agencies and the surrounding communities to tackle the big question of affordable housing.
Not only will that impact how transportation systems develop in the coming years, but everything from taxes to schools to economic growth and Slotnick hopes to get in front of those pressures.
“Missoula used to be a whole lot more rough around the edges than it is now. It used to be an easier place to not have much money than it is now,” Slotnick noted.
“And what we’re seeing is people moving to our bedroom communities and then driving in, because to trade a car for a house, in terms of dollars. And that wasn’t the case 10, 15 years ago,” he added.
Slotnick says his first weeks on the job have been “very engaging”, with the help of a “great staff” to help him navigate his new responsibilities.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News