County approves intent to change allowable uses with special use permit in mixed use areas, considering changes to subdivision regulations

County Commissioners voted 3-0 during their May 8 meeting on their intent to amend zoning regulations to allow a second dwelling or multifamily dwelling unit including a duplex within a mixed use district with a special use permit.

The 30-day protest period runs through May 13. After that, commissioners will vote to finalize the amendment.

Next phase of Ulm subdivision up for County Commission consideration

The change was requested by the Sun River Valley Public Schools, but if approved, will apply to mixed use districts countywide. The change was requested by the school district to provide affordable in-district housing in the hopes of attracting and retaining educators in Simms, according to the county planning staff.

Commissioners Jim Larson asked about restrictions on lot coverage for allowing the secondary structure.

Alex Dachs, a county planner, said that issue isn’t addressed in mixed use districts as the regulations are currently written, but the Zoning Board of Adjustment could consider lot coverage when reviewing special use permits.

Commissioner Joe Briggs said the county does have yard requirements in mixed use districts that would prevent property owners from building structures on top of each other.

The purpose of the SUP is “to allow us some flexibility to do things that make sense,” Briggs said.

City Commissioner Mary Moe spoke in favor of the change since recruiting and retaining teachers in rural districts.

No one spoke in opposition to the change.

The planning board held a public meeting March 20 and voted 7-0 to recommend that commissioners approve the regulation change.

Staff also requested to amend the definition of “community residential facility” to strike the portion indicating such a facility would serve eight or fewer people.

Commissioners said they wanted more detail on that proposed change before making a decision and did not include that section in their vote. Dachs said staff would likely bring the definition change before the commission again in the future.

The county planning board will consider proposed changes to the county’s subdivision regulations during their May 15 meeting at 9 a.m. in the commission chambers at the Courthouse Annex. County staff are recommending changes based on changes made by the Montana State Legislature in 2017 to the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act laws.

The Montana Association of Counties drafted model language that each county could modify and incorporate into existing subdivision regulations.

Many of the changes, according to a county staff report, are corrections to typing errors in the past that don’t change the original intent, according to county planning staff.

The Electric has requested the proposed changes ahead of the planning board meeting, but has not yet received them nor have they been posted on the county website yet, though the agenda and staff report have been posted. As soon as the proposed changes are available, we’ll post them here.

The proposed changes will eventually go before the county commission.

According to planning staff, the changes are the direct result of HB0245 on requiring timelines for review of a final subdivision plat; HB0445 on subdivision phasing and SB0219 on mortgage exemptions.