Pocket neighborhood ok’d by planning board

Beargrass Village, the city’s first pocket village, got approval from the Planning Advisory Board/Zoning Commission.

Seven of the board’s nine members attended Tuesday’s meeting, with one recusing herself from the discussion and the vote because she’s involved in the project.

Pocket neighborhood proposed for former Kranz Floral site gets public hearing on Tuesday

Beargrass Village is a pocket neighborhood proposed by NeighborWorks Great Falls for the 1.2 acre parcel that formerly housed Kranz Floral, which was demolished.

The project would include 10 single family homes and two 2-unit townhomes on smaller lots nestled around a shared green space. In a pocket neighborhood, homes are oriented to all face the common area and according to architect Ross Chapin, who coined the term, the ideal pocket neighborhood has 8-12 homes.

Proposed for construction on the northwest corner of 3rd Avenue South and 14th Street South, city planners said they paid special attention to ensuring the proposed project would fit within the surrounding neighborhood.

The planning board approved a Planned Unit Development zoning and a preliminary plat to turn the existing seven lots into 15.

RJ Brewer said his family owns a house across the street from the proposed project.

“I’m here to gather information,” and report back to his brothers and sisters, he said, so they can form an opinion on the project.

The proposal includes a single car garage for each of the single family homes, and two car garages for the townhomes. Brewer said he thought the residents would have more than one car per home and they’d park on the street.

The city has stated in staff reports and again during Tuesday’s meeting that the number of cars using on-street parking would be similar to the number of cars generated if the current lots were developed as single family homes.

Brewer said that when Kranz Floral was demolished that the neighborhood rumor was that a new city park would be created in its place. Staff said that was never the plan, but, Brewer asked if that could be considered.

The city is currently working on a proposed park district to generate more revenue for park maintenance and improvement, but some of those opposed have suggested that the city sell current parkland.

Another area resident had questions about where the trash cans would be located and city staff said that was being coordinated with the sanitation division.

The property is zoned R-3 single family high density, but there are other nonconforming uses in the area, including multi-family complexes. The PUD creates specific requirements for the pocket neighborhood and the lots within it. NWGF is also creating a homeowners association with the neighborhood and it will govern paint colors, maintenance, types/sizes of dogs, and more. The HOA agreement will also prohibit recreational vehicles from being parked on the site or on the street.

Neil Fortier, with NWGF, said they will hire a third-party contractor to maintain the landscaping and handle snow removal. That will be included in the HOA fee that has yet to be determined, Fortier said.

Three models will be available and the homes will range from 870-1,165 square feet and the townhomes will be a bit larger and two-stories. The single family homes will all have full basements, but the townhomes will not have basements.

Fortier said the homes prices will likely range from $170,000 to $225,000. He said that’s a price-point that’s lacking in housing inventory in the city. Based on their research, there are just 51 homes in Great Falls in that price range and only one had been built since 2008.

NWGF’s affiliate in Boise, Idaho is working on their sixth pocket neighborhood and Fortier said they can’t build them fast enough for demand there. Those homes are around $384,000 in that market.

Fortier said as construction plans are finalized, they’ll be able to firm up the price of the homes and the HOA fees.

“We would like to duplicate this model elsewhere in the city,” Fortier said. “We believe this will be successful based on all the homework we’ve done. We believe there is a market for it here in Great Falls.”

Pete Fontana, a planning board member, said he didn’t think the concept would work in Great Falls, but voted in favor of the PUD.

Patrick Sullivan, the newest planning board member, said he’d seen pocket neighborhoods in Boise and visited friends who lived in them in other cities.

“I love where this is going. This is good for the community,” he said.

Bozeman approved what media reports called a pocket neighborhood in 2015, but it’s significantly larger than what’s proposed in Great Falls and not what Chapin writes about in his book and website about pocket neighborhoods.

The Beargrass Village goes to the City Commission next for final approval on the PUD.