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LibbyMt.com > News > March 2009 > Zoning concerns expressed at growth policy hearing

Kootenai Valley Record. Photo by Kootenai Valley Record.
Kootenai Valley Record
Zoning concerns expressed at growth policy hearing
by Brent Shrum, Kootenai Valley Record
March 19, 2009

A proposed growth policy for Lincoln County wonít bring forth any new regulations without a public review process, and the policy itself may be put to a public vote, county officials said during a public hearing on the policy last week in Troy.

The growth policy is the result of three years of work by the county planning board, said board president Joe Kelly.

"There were eight or nine of us on the board most of the time, and there was a lot of disagreement most of the time," Kelly said. "It was not always 100 percent, but thatís good."

The 152-page document is intended to be used to guide future policies such as subdivision regulations. The purpose of the policy is to help the public and elected officials identify goals and objectives, set priorities, and seek solutions to long term issues.

A public questionnaire sent out early in the process was used as a guide in the policyís development, said planning board member Ted Andersen. Returned questionnaires included detailed input from county residents on the things they felt were special about Lincoln County and to be preserved.

"There were narratives two and three pages long," Andersen said.

Knowing that zoning and impact fees would be contentious issues, the board decided to leave those things open for individual communities or neighborhoods to decide for themselves, said board member Paul Tisher.

"Itís all ultimately going to depend on the public," he said.

Around 10 members of the public attended the hearing last Tuesday night in Troy. Attendance was similar at a hearing the previous night in Libby. A final hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday in Eureka.

Several of those attending the Troy hearing expressed concerns about the potential for zoning and other restrictions to arise from the growth policy.

Carl Weiss related a bad experience in California, where restrictions were placed on traditional land uses as the population grew.

"The same thing can happen anywhere," Weiss said. "All of a sudden youíre telling a land owner what he can do with his land."

Don Cox said he owns property in the Spokane area that he canít subdivide into parcels smaller than 20 acres because itís zoned agricultural. He said he hopes the same thing doesnít happen to property he owns here, but added that the growth policy is the "first step" toward zoning.

"Iíve got a lot of potential to do different things with my property, and I donít want anyone to come and say ĎWeíre zoning you for this so you canít do that anymore,í" he said.

Rhoda Cargill asked how the policy will be implemented, noting that itís "nothing other than vision, unless you do."

Greg Larson, who worked as a consultant on the policy, pointed to various implementation tools listed for different portions of the policy. Those tools include citizen participation, public education, capital improvement planning, intergovernmental planning and subdivision regulations. All would "have to have their own day in court, their own public review," Larson said.

Following the ongoing public review of the growth policy, the county commissioners will probably decide in June how to move forward, Commissioner John Konzen said. That could be a vote of the commissioners themselves or a ballot measure for the county voters, he said.

It if goes to a public vote, the ballot question would likely be "if youíre in favor of a growth policy Ďaye;í if youíre opposed to a growth policy Ďnay,í" Konzen said.

The draft growth policy can be obtained from the county planning departmentís website at http://www.lincolncountymt.us/planning_dept.htm. For more information, call the planning department at 406-293-7781 ext.229.

Editorís Note: See the March 17, 2009 edition of the Kootenai Valley Record for the printed version of this story. The Kootenai Valley Record publishes once a week, now on Tuesday, in Libby, Montana. They are a locally owned community newspaper, located at 403 Mineral Avenue in Libby. For in-county and out-of-county subscription information, call 406-293-2424, or e-mail kvrecord@gmail.com.

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