Livingston Planning Board got it right — and we should all be grateful

Tuesday, March 23, 2021
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Jean Keffeler
Guest Columnist

It’s no secret that Livingston, and our region in general, is experiencing dramatic growth and change that has only accelerated with the advent of COVID. For this reason, many concerned citizens felt an urgent need to update the Livingston Growth Policy, which had not seen a significant rewrite in decades. Thank goodness that they did.

A growth policy gathers information about the status and trends of growth that are affecting all aspects of our community. And based on this information, and on the perspectives and knowledge of the public, it articulates a vision for our future and outlines policies needed to ensure that as we grow and change, we create the community that we want. As they say, “Growth is inevitable, it can happen by default, or by design.”

Local government officials agreed that the time was right to update this policy. A consulting firm was hired, public meetings convened, and about six months ago a draft growth policy was delivered to the City and to the Livingston Planning Board for their review. 

But in the opinion of many, this first draft did not meet the expectations for a progressive planning document that reflected both the desires of the community as well as cutting-edge thinking from the planning profession. People no longer just want to see development for development’s sake. They want to make certain that as we grow, we conserve what is important to our community, such as — the protection of historic character, availability of a range of housing options, a vibrant downtown, walkable and bikeable streets and trails, and the conservation of natural values like our surrounding open spaces and our spectacular Yellowstone River.

Livingstonians have a reputation for not accepting the status quo. That is precisely why the town is now recognized for its unique character and authenticity. It was not surprising that citizens demanded better. And the Livingston Planning Board agreed. It would have been easy to rubber stamp the original version of the policy and move on. But the Planning Board rolled up its sleeves and dived headlong into the document, closely reviewing, discussing and revising all aspects of the policy. The public did the same. Dozens of individuals and several non-governmental organizations diligently attended biweekly Zoom Planning Board meetings that sometimes went on well into the night. The City Planning Department was right there, too, providing informed process guidance and diligently incorporating citizen and Planning Board recommendations into the revised policy.

The Planning Board still has meetings scheduled for the coming weeks, so its job is far from over before it tenders the Recommended Livingston Growth Policy to the City Commission.  

Undoubtedly, the final version will not satisfy every member of the public or every member of the Planning Board. But it represents a Herculean effort to produce a document that reflects and respects the unique character of our community and the pride and vision of its residents. 

As far as community growth policies are concerned, we strongly believe that this is one of the best in the state. That did not happen by accident. City residents are being well represented by the dedication and determination of the Planning Board to “get it right.” And their efforts were bolstered by thoughtful input from many individuals and organizations, with support from planning staff. 

Closely monitoring the implementation of this policy will be essential. But considering the number and diversity of individuals that have dedicated time and energy into its production, we are confident that this will be the case.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Jean Keffeler is a co-founder and member of the board of Friends of Park County. She lives on Swingley Road with her husband, David Stanley. Both are involved in activities supporting the Park County community.

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