County prepares survey results, plans for public meetings

People in Madison County are passionate about land use issues, which was evident in the way many responded to a recent survey circulated by the Madison County Planning Board.

“The comments were thoughtful and the results seem to reflect a broad group of folks from Madison County,” said Charity Fechter, planning director.

The survey was the county’s first step in revising its growth policy, which was last revised in 2006.

The idea behind the survey was to essentially get some input on what priorities people have in the county and where the revisions should be focused, Fechter said.

Of more than 7,500 surveys distributed, the county received 368 responses. The survey was also available online. The raw results from the survey will be available on the county’s website this week.

The growth policy is the main document guiding growth in Madison County, but it’s usefulness and scope is beyond land use, said Madison County Planning Board President Kathy Looney.

The growth policy contains statements about the value of agriculture and recreation to county residents, the importance of senior services along with demographic data. It is a document that outlines the direction residents would like to see their county grow in the next 20 years.
Keeping the document current is a big task, but important, Looney said.

“Honestly it’s the community’s opportunity to really help look ahead,” she said.

The survey was involved and Looney was pleased so many people took the opportunity to fill it out.

“It was shocking, because, quite frankly I found it to be painful to fill out and I helped put the dang thing together,” she said. “I think people generally care about where they live.”

From the survey, the planning board and the community will be able get some idea of what the community’s priorities are and how to begin to address them with a revision of the growth policy, Fechter said.

The next step is for the planning board to continue to analyze the survey results and then hold a series of public meetings around the county to get more public comment. The public meetings will begin in February and go through March.

Looney hopes to continue to get good interest in the growth policy revision.

“It would be nice if we could come together as a community and work together and look ahead and try to come up with a good plan,” she said. “Obviously we’re not going to agree on every aspect of every point and that’s obvious in the survey results.”

To look at the growth policy survey results go to madison.mt.gov. For more information call Fechter at 843-5250.

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