LNA | Lewistown Latest Growth Policy Developments

“Everything would go through the planning commission and things in Lewistown would move faster, so if you really want more housing, I don’t have to grab three giant binders to lay out the process,”

LNA | Lewistown Latest Growth Policy Developments
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Read the article at the Lewistown News Argus by Will Briggs
“…Cities across the state are already working to comply with the new law, with Helena and Kalispell creating the “planning commissions” necessary to formulate their land use plans. With the Land Use Planning Act written to apply automatically to cities of over 5,000 people in counties with populations over 70,000, however, Lewistown would need to opt-in to the new planning processes.
“Any other jurisdiction — a city or county — can opt in,” Mandeville explained.
How it works
Mandeville, along with Lewistown City Planner Doug Osterman and Montana League of Cities and Towns Executive Director Kelly Lynch, argued there are a number of advantages to a city like Lewistown opting in to the new municipal planning process outlined in the new land use law.
“What the legislature is saying is learn from the mistakes of other places. It makes a lot of sense for Lewistown to opt in,” Osterman told the News-Argus. “My first reading of the law, I was literally taken aback. The legislature realizes that it’s not an economical approach for the state and municipalities not to plan for growth. This is an economic development act.”
“I would like to see pretty much all cities and even towns opt in to the policy,” Lynch told the News-Argus in December.
The Land Use Planning Act requires that cities adopt a land use plan, or growth policy that will guide development within the city and in the “planning area” or “doughnut,” a two to four-and-a-half mile ring around city limits for a 20-year period. Reviews of the policy would be conducted every five years. Zoning and subdivision regulations would then automatically match the land use plan…”
“…“Everything would go through the planning commission and things in Lewistown would move faster, so if you really want more housing, I don’t have to grab three giant binders to lay out the process,” he said. “We can get rid of some stodgy, old zoning requirements that make it difficult to renovate old buildings or address vacant lots and get significantly more housing in town.”
The form that additional housing takes may vary. SB 382 instructs cities to pick at least five options from a menu of 14 different forms of housing to allow within city limits. These range from duplexes to accessory dwelling units, to apartments and reduced lot sizes or setback requirements.
“The bill doesn’t put a one-size-fits-all solution on housing issues,” Mandeville said. “This bill streamlines zoning codes, but for the most part, if you want to zone for apartments in a certain area, zone for apartments. If you don’t, you don’t have to.”
Planning for planning
But implementing the Land Use Planning Act, should the City Commission vote to opt-in, would entail overcoming several key obstacles. The first is administrative — the city would need to establish a new “planning commission” to oversee the process outlined in the Act.
“The biggest logistical issue is figuring out a governance structure and how we can make the existing structures work,” Osterman told the News-Argus. “We can streamline the boards and do some zoning code housekeeping to get going — the steps on that are to be determined… We’ll have to constitute a new board or re-constitute an existing board as a ‘planning commission’ under the new law.”…”

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