County planning board recommends approval of subdivision regulation changes

The county planning board voted last week to recommend approval of changes to the county subdivision regulations.

Many of the changes were in response to law changes made by the Montana Legislature last year with guidance from the Montana Association of Counties.

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

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.

The proposed regulations would require developers to submit plans that include an overall phased development preliminary plat on which independent platted development phases must be presented. Phases would have to be completed sequentially and within 20 years of the date the overall development preliminary plat is approved by the County Commission.

[READ: Proposed changes to Cascade County subdivision regulations]

That would also limit the county from imposing new conditions on the phases include in the original approval.

Currently, developers have three years and can request extensions and many recent projects have taken about 20 years to be fully completed.

The proposed changes also include eliminating cluster developments since they can be covered by planned unit development zoning; and change the 60 foot requirement for gravel and paved rights of way to 80 feet.

Mark Carlson, planning board member, asked how the change from three to 20 years for subdivision phasing would affect filing fees.

Alex Dachs, senior planner, said there wasn’t a fee for the extension requests so there’s no change.

Dexter Busby, planning board member, said “three years to 20 is a pretty big jump. The world changes a lot in 20 years.”

Dachs said developers would have to stick to the plans and file the phases sequentially. He said developers have recently been filing final plats on projects that received preliminary plat approval almost 20 years ago and had been requesting extensions when the market tanked.

Another change to the subdivision regulations sets a 20 day deadline for staff review of final plat submittals. Staff would then bring the action to the commission, which would have another 20 days to review.

Some planning board members expressed concern that the 20 day requirement would limit staff on major projects.

Dachs said staff would review applications and identify anything that’s missing. Developers would have to submit a complete application before the 20 day clock would start.

Jim Ekberg, deputy public works director, said staff could still review applications before they are complete, but no hearings would be scheduled until they are complete.

Dachs said most developers and consultants are aware of the regulations and are quick to complete their applications.

The planning board unanimously voted to recommend that the County Commission approve the changes. No members of the public attended the meeting.