Ennis Town Commission March meeting highlights

My Willow condo development vote postponed

The Ennis Town Commission held their regular monthly meeting on March 11. Here’s a recap of what was discussed during the two-hour session.

Pollinator gardens to be planted

Madison Conservation District Conservation Programs Manager David Laufenberg addressed the board regarding a recently started pollinator program, seeking an opportunity to work with the town to provide a thoughtful alternative to lawn grass in the form of pollinator gardens. The project would come at little cost to the town, as MCD has just over two acres of pollinator seed on hand, as well as personnel to assist with maintenance and stewardship of the plots.

Commissioners were open to the idea, noting a green space just behind the Town Hall that could use some revamping. Other pollinator garden possibilities discussed included the park between the Pharmacy and Riverstone Gallery, the small islands in the roadways of the North 40, as well as the Lions Club Park.

The commission gave Laufenberg the go-ahead to proceed. The MCD will investigate which sites will work best, as irrigation is key, and Laufenberg will reconvene with the board as to where the gardens will go this spring.

Ennis Farmers Market coming to town

Commissioner Cory Hardy spoke to his board regarding plans to start a Farmers Market. Hardy explained he and other organizers spearheading the event are moving forward: a yearly business license has been obtained; insurance at a cost of $250 has not been obtained but the process is underway, as well as collaboration with the sanitation department. They’ve also approached several banks and businesses in town for funding, hoping to secure $2,000 to cover the event costs. Other needs include a sign at Lions Park where the seasonal event will be held, May 1 – October 15.

Montana-made food vendors are being sought after. The Ennis Farmers Market’s mission is “To bring together and educate one another on where our food comes from, and why that is so incredibly important,” said Hardy.

Organizer CeCe Weldon added that they’ve discussed their plans with the organizers of the farmers market in nearby Jeffers, “our intention is to promote them, and to have some of the people who come to the Ennis Farmers Market to also swing by the Jeffers Farmers Market as well, once that’s up and running,” she said. “We’re working together with them, and same thing with Twin Bridges as well.”

Market organizers are working on a plan to provide assistance for those who may not be able to afford shopping there, as well as collecting vendor fees as a donation.

Hardy said he and the other market organizers are not asking the town for anything, but rather wanted to provide transparency as to what they’re working on.

Commissioners voiced their approval, seeing it as an opportunity to not only bring the community together but also attract out-of-town visitors who will spend money at the market and beyond.

Street Maintenance District ordinance update

Before the board could vote on an updated road maintenance ordinance more information was needed. Ennis Public Works Director Kelly Elser stated that an outside business will need to be hired to inventory the streets of Ennis, at a cost of $2,000-$3,000. During that process gravel roads which could be paved would be identified.

Elser said he thinks the study could happen “pretty fast,” and that it will include a total inventory of all the streets in town, prioritizing and identifying which roads are in the worst shape. A 10-step process will identify which paved roads need an overlay, re-pave or sealcoat, etc. Gravel roads involve a fivestep process to identify maintenance needs.

Potholes on 1st Street were mentioned by a commissioner. Kelly said that road was left out when an overlay occurred about a decade ago, and that that issue would be identified along with others around town. Then, it would be up to the town to prioritize and choose which to address.

Kelly was given approval to move forward with getting the inventory scheduled.

Further discussion included the process of making sure new properties are being charged correctly for road maintenance. Ennis Mayor Blake Leavitt said this could potentially be addressed via a hired position. The board agreed the job, a special project administrator of sorts, should be created and advertised for.

Rent for ambulance housing

As of May 1, 2021 local ambulance service will be handled by the Madison Valley Medical Center, but the ambulances will remain housed at the Ennis Town Hall for a temporary but undetermined amount of time.

The board discussed how much the town should charge MVMC to rent the heated ambulance bay, noting that it does not have access a bathroom. The MVMC would have access to water to wash the vehicles. The board had some debate but ultimately agreed $500 is a reasonable if not low monthly rent, which will be set for one year, and the board will request MVMC to carry renters insurance.

The process will be finalized at an upcoming board meeting.

My Willow Traditional Neighborhood Development vote

My Willow is a proposed 12- unit condo development in the North 40 neighborhood. Ennis Mayor Blake Leavitt explained that for a conditional use permit to be issued for the project, a public hearing will need to be scheduled. The soonest the Madison County Planning Board could review the application and provide public review would be at its April 26 meeting. Then, the Ennis Town Council could vote on the matter at its May 6 meeting.

Commissioner Lisa Roberts expressed concern to the project’s developer representative, Breeann Johnson, related to the project’s pedestrian access as well as a lack of landscaping and stormwater mitigation plan. Johnson said they are working with the planning department. Their goal is to tick all the boxes for specification requirements and will provide more details soon.

Commissioner Jason Schroeder expressed concerns over occupancy – the current plan allows for two adults per bedroom and unlimited minors – allowing for six adults and an unknown number of minors in the three-bedroom units. Schroeder wondered if allowing two adults in the master and one in each of the additional bedrooms would be a better scenario. Johnson said she would find out more.

A more detailed construction material and mock-up was also requested by the commission. “This plan looks very modern, and for Ennis it doesn’t really jive with what I’d like to see Ennis look like,” said Schroeder, who listed natural colors, stone and exposed timber as aspects he’d like to see. This matter would also be relayed to the developer and architect for the project.

Johnson stated that her clients are committed to creating a development that fits within the community’s spirit and western aesthetic. She requested more specific parameters for the TND requirements.

“Because we do have a timeline on this running, and we do not want to have those timelines disrupted any further,” said Johnson. “The sooner that we can come to some set of parameters, the sooner I can turn it around for everyone’s review.”

The board will work with the planning department to create a more specific set of requirements.

My Willow units, slated to be 39-feet tall, would be the tallest buildings in Ennis. No price-point was available for the board, as the amount likely would hinge on what requirements are set in place, but Johnson said the individually sold units are envisioned as a more affordable option for young families and professionals moving to the area.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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