Planning officials to weigh interim zoning

Justin Post — Enterprise Staff Writer
Friday, May 22, 2020

As discussions about possible countywide zoning move forward in the coming months, should emergency zoning tools be adopted on an interim basis to prevent uncontrolled development in Park County?

That’s a question the Park County Planning and Development Board will consider during its June 18 meeting when Bozeman community planning consultant Jennifer Madgic appears before the board.

Madgic is expected to give the Planning Board information about using interim zoning as a tool during ongoing talks about possible countywide zoning. The Planning Board serves in an advisory role to the Park County Commission. 

The Planning Board had been in the process of reviewing draft countywide zoning guidelines, known as the Park County Conflict Mitigation Zoning District, but those discussions were paused in April because of the spread of the new coronavirus.

County officials have said they want a robust discussion on the issue of zoning, and agreed those opportunities would be limited as public gatherings are discouraged.

Meanwhile, the Planning Board will hear from Madgic and learn about interim zoning tools that may be available, said Chairman John Heidke. Kenneth Cochrane, of Protecting Paradise, is also expected to be on the agenda for the June 18 discussion on interim zoning.

Heidke said the board is expected to have a discussion during the meeting about the viability of interim zoning in Park County.

“It’s unknown whether we’ll make a decision on it,” he said. “It is a tool available to counties and municipalities.”

Heidke said interim zoning is noted in Montana’s land use and planning statutes and has been used in communities such as Great Falls to  restrict gambling facilities, Gallatin County to stop development of coal bed methane wells on Bozeman Pass, and in Ravalli County to restrict construction of a big box store.

The Planning Board voted during a regular meeting Thursday evening to hear from Madgic and Cochrane during the June meeting. The board also considered four recommendations made by a Planning Board subcommittee comprised of Planning Board members Jean Keffeler, Bryan Wells and Frank Schroeder.

The subcommittee recommended designating another group to work with planning staff and the community concerning issues related to the Conflict Mitigation Draft Regulations. The board ultimately decided not to form another group, but that Planning Board members would accompany planning staff, when possible, to meet with various groups around the county to discuss and hear feedback about the draft regulations.

The Planning Board also considered a subcommittee recommendation to invite non-governmental organizations to develop information about development and growth issues in the county. The recommendation said the information would be used for consideration by commissioners, the Planning Board and the community.

However, some members of the Planning Board raised concerns about the board inviting certain groups and the community’s perception of that working relationship.

The board instead chose to seek information from interested groups and the community at large. Board members were cautioned against going out individually and requesting data from any particular organization on behalf of the board.

The board voted against adopting an addendum that recommended to expand the scope of work to be performed under Park County’s Growth Policy. The addendum gave examples such as updating data and maps for residential development patterns, including in rural areas outside of Livingston and Clyde Park. It also used as an example updating maps and data on subdivisions; and assessing impacts of forecasted growth patterns on roads, fire protection and policy.

The board also voted to dissolve the subcommittee, at the subcommittee’s request.

Discussions on the draft Conflict Mitigation Zoning District may continue with the public’s involvement as soon as next month.

Development of the district is just one of the issues explored under the county’s Growth Policy. The county in early 2019 adopted the U.S. Highway 89 South — East River Road — Old Yellowstone Trail Zoning District and Regulations to address signs, also known as billboard zoning. A proposed Park County Community Decay and Litter Ordinance is currently under review.

The board also requested an update from county commissioners on enforcement of the billboard zoning after one member said he’s noticed new signs along U.S. 89 South.

The board member said planning officials will likely be doing a lot of “heavy lifting” during the upcoming discussions on countywide zoning and said he hopes the county enforces guidelines that are ultimately adopted as a result of the work.