County planning board forwards zoning revisions to commission, with recommend to approve except for MU40 district
The Cascade County Planning Board voted 4-3 during their Sept. 10 meeting to recommend approval of the proposed zoning regulation revisions, with the exception of the MU40 district and an amended provision for medical marijuana.
After spending about 20 minutes discussing whether to reduce a 1,000 foot setback for medical marijuana to 500 feet, the board realized the proposed revisions already had a 500 foot setback that mirrors the state regulations.
The board voted to amend the medical marijuana dispensary and testing facilities to make them allowable in the I-2 heavy industrial, I-1 light industrial, commercial and mixed use and agricultural districts.
The proposed zoning changes next go to the County Commission, which will conduct another public hearing 45 days after a notice has been published in the newspaper. That notice hasn’t yet been published.
The commission can make any revisions or amendments to the proposal forwarded by the planning board.
Commissioners would then pass a resolution of intent to adopt zoning regulations and publish that notice once a week for two weeks in the newspaper. For 30 days after the initial publication, the public can submit written protests. Within 30 days of the expiration of that protest period, the commissioners may adopt the zoning regulations, but if 40 percent of real property owners within the district or if real property owners representing 50 percent of the titled property ownership whose property is taxed for agricultural purposes under MCA 15-7-202 or whose property is taxed as forest land under Title 15, chapter 44, part 1, have protested the establishment of the district or adoption of the regulations, commissioners may not adopt the resolution and a further zoning resolution may not be proposed for the district for a year, according to state law.
Much of the public concern over the proposed zoning changes was the establishment of what was dubbed the MU40 district.
County staff had planned what was essentially splitting the agricultural district into two mixed use districts, the MU20 and MU40. The numbers don’t necessarily correlate to acreage of a parcel, according to staff, but instead related more to development patterns.
Staff written justification and explanation of the two districts is available here.
Rochard Liebert, county planning board member, said he supported the MU20 district but “sees no compelling arguments for MU40.”
Based on the planning board’s recommendation, areas that aren’t pulled into the MU20 district would remain under the agricultural zoning regulations as they exist currently.
In their comments, members of the public largely supported the move to deny the MU40 district.
Michael Stone, a county planner and an architect of the MU20/40 proposal, said the MU40 district had provisions to deter non-agricultural development and that slaughterhouses, feedlots and the like were allowable in the current agriculture zoning district. He said if people didn’t want those uses, they should consider the MU40 district and maybe rename it to make people more comfortable with it.
Liebert said maybe renaming the district would work and that it could be food for thought for commissioners but he didn’t think the planning board could address that.
Liebert again asked county planning staff the status of the board’s growth policy recommendation. The board voted to recommend no change to the policy so Sandor Hopkins, interim planning director, said the county commission doesn’t consider it an actionable item at this time.
The county planning department proposed substantial changes and the board first began consideration of those changes in February. The staff-initiated revisions would impact all property within the boundaries of Cascade County, except for the incorporated areas of Great Falls, Belt, Neihart and Cascade.
Since then, the board has continued to consider the proposed changes, staff report and public comments.
The proposed revisions are available online, as well as in the Cascade County planning office at 121 4th St. N., Suite 2H daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of noon to 1 p.m.
The planning department can be reached at 454-6905 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other locations where the proposed revisions are available for viewing:
- Cascade County Clerk and Recorder Office, 121 4th St. N. #1B-1
- Cascade County Commissioner’s Office, 325 2nd Ave. N.
- Great Falls Public Library, 301 2nd Ave. N.
Information on the proposed zoning regulations is available here and more of The Electric’s previous coverage is below.