City approves annexation for rights-of-way for Rockcress Commons apartment complex

City Commissioners approved the annexation of about 2 acres for public rights of way for Rockcress Commons, a 124-unit apartment complex being developed by NeighborWorks Great Falls on the southern edge of the city.

Commissioner Bill Bronson recused himself from the discussion and the vote since his wife works at NWGF. No one spoke in opposition to the annexation.

Brett Doney of the Great Falls Development Authority spoke in favor of the project and said, “we need quality, affordable housing.”

The property annexed Tuesday was initially overlooked when the city was annexing the larger property for the apartment complex during meetings last year.

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The most recent annexation will allow property bordering the eastern and southern edges of the Rockcress project to become dedicated city rights-of-way to serve the project, as well as the city’s larger transportation network, according to planning staff.

The eastern area equates to about 0.825 acres and will facilitate construction and dedication of 23rd Street South. The southern area is about 1.15 acres and already encompasses 24th Avenue South.

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The annexation of 24th Avenue South is required by city code which states, “the municipality shall include: (2) the full width of any public streets or roads, including the rights-of-way, that are adjacent to the property being annexed.”

The commission also approved the final plat of Rockcress Commons on Tuesday.

The plat contains five lots, two of which will be designated for parking. A total of 124 multi-family units in seven total buildings are proposed on the lots ranging from 0.709 – 2.862 acres. The buildings range from 8 to 24 units. The proposed final plat shows all required utility and stormwater drainage easements. A financial guarantee for all public improvements has been provided to the city.

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Within these annexed rights-of-way, the developer will construct and extend all required city utilities as well as public streets constructed to meet city standards.

The final annexation improvement agreement is still being completed and staff anticipates it will be on the next commission agenda.

The developer is responsible for the installation of all public utilities for the development, but the city has required an upsized stormwater pipe underneath 23rd Street South due to limitations in the city’s downstream stormwater infrastructure. The city is covering the cost of oversizing the pipe, according to Public Works.

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Various city departments have been involved in the review process and according to staff, the coordination over stormwater has been extensive between public works, planning and the developer.

Great Falls Fire Rescue expressed concern during the initial annexation discussions because the current response time to the area is over the 4-minute response time that is the industry standard from the National Fire Protection Association. The Rockcress complex would typically be served by Fire Station 3 at 3325 Central Ave.

According to the staff report, there are mitigating measures through sprinkler systems in the buildings and the development bordering public streets on both the east and south. There will also be two new streets constructed within the project and the city has requested a paved fire access drive from 23rd Street South.