Planning 101 educates Madison County Planning Board, area citizen planners

Whether they are professional planners or citizen planners, newly appointed planning board members or seasoned planning board veterans, those involved in planning in Madison County were reminded of the importance of their role.

Planning for communities and counties involves a lot more than properly filled out forms and meetings at last week’s Planning 101 training in Ennis.

A one-day seminar on the basics of land use planning sponsored by the Montana Association of Planners, Planning 101 provides an overview of the history of planning and an introduction to the laws governing land use in Montana. The course is targeted to a general audience but is particularly beneficial to persons new to the planning profession in the state. Citizen planners including planning board members and city officials from Ennis and West Yellowstone learned about the history of planning, laws, growth policies, subdivisions and zoning.

Madison County’s planning board members have varied backgrounds that range from property management, construction, law, ranching, education, medicine and personal business ventures. The one thing they have in common is their desire to build communities that enrich people’s lives with the public’s involvement, continued updates, a vision for the future and comprehensive plan. The board is one part of the often used subdivision process in the county. The planning office works closely with developers throughout the subdivision process and compiles a report and makes recommendations to the board.  The board in turn makes a recommendation to the county commissioners.  The process continues from there with other county agencies and departments.

Robert Horne, an experienced land use planner of more than 34 years, told the Planning 101 attendees that planning boards in the United States have been in existence for 100 years. They are authorized in Montana by law. City zoning commissions are also in the Montana Code Annotated. County officials and boards, and city representatives do not just deal with subdivisions, but also work often on growth policies for all or part of a jurisdictional area within the city or county. The 1999 Montana Legislature revised law to change the term from master plan to growth policy.

“The growth policy is the community’s to-do list or strategic plan,” presenter Janet Cornish of Community Development Services of Montana said. “It provides the framework for decision making on the issues and opportunities facing a community.”

Twin Bridges is in the process of updating its growth policy, which must be reviewed every five years. The county recently produced its growth policy. Having a growth policy in place can put a city or county in an advantageous position when seeking grant support for community projects, Cornish said.

Every two years planners are faced with some major and some minor legislative changes they must correctly understand and implement in order to keep serving the public. Lanette Windemaker, a land use planning consultant, and Chris Saunders with the City of Bozeman pointed out a number of this year’s legislative changes regarding subdivisions and zoning.

“Now you see why we’re always running around,” Madison County Planning Director Charity Fechter said of the regulations and changes.

To learn more about planning, visit www.planning.org or www.montanaplanners.org. More information is also available on the county planning office’s webpage – http://madison.mt.gov/departments/plan/planning.asp.

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