MISSOULA, Mont. — While the city of Missoula plans to annex new land into city limits, folks at DeSmet School are trying to start a conversation about what the “zoning label” in the annexation process means for their school.
For the past 20 years, DeSmet School has been zoned industrial, but their principal, Matthew Driessen, believes it is time to change that.
"The proper thing to have around a school is residential. Kids should be able to walk to school. Families should have a school in their community," said Driessen.
Due to the zoning no one is moving into the neighborhood.
Driessen says the industrial zoning causes plenty of issues, including enrollment.
"So we sit around 110, 120 kids. That's about it. That's the houses in the area and without new development, that's where it's going to stay," he said.
Of 110 to 120 those kids, he says only one lives close enough to walk to school.
So DeSmet is pushing to get the zoning changed to residential.
That means more houses and neighborhoods.
The city would have to sign off on that plan.
A letter from Missoula City Councilman John Dibari shows it might be tough for DeSmet to get what it wants.
Dibari questions whether anyone is really interested in seeing elementary aged school children cross in the middle of an industrial park.
While he says he understands why the school wants to increase enrollment, he says changing the zoning isn't the right way to go.
At Monday night’s meeting, the school just hoped to spark a conversation between them and the city before the annexation faces a public hearing next week.