VIRGINIA CITY – During a public hearing held Monday evening the Madison County Planning Board reviewed and discussed a draft of the updated 2012 Growth Policy last adopted in 2006.
Nearly 20 county residents were in attendance at the meeting held in the upstairs courtroom of the historic Madison County courthouse in addition to planning board members. Many comments from the public commended the board for their work on the draft 2012 Growth Policy Update, a policy that for the most part is unchanged from the 2006 policy, explained county planning director Charity Fechter.
“In the spring of 2012 a series of community discussions were held throughout the county that asked three questions: what do people value in their communities, what are the threats to those values and what should be done to maintain those values,” Fechter said before opening the public comment period. “After reviewing the comments, the board felt that few changes would be necessary to the growth policy beyond bringing it up to date with newly available data, adding a section on sand and gravel and reformatting the document to make it easier to understand.”
The first comprehensive plan for Madison County was originally prepared by the planning board and adopted by the county commissioners in 1973 as an attempt to address the loss of agricultural lands to increasing recreational and second home development and the seasonal nature of the county’s agricultural and recreational employment. The plan was revised 13 years later in 1988 to include a more strict set of subdivision review policies for the county, as well as a land use plan for the Madison Valley.
The plan was again updated in 1999 to reflect the growing recreation, tourism and construction industries that had joined agriculture, mining and forestry in the economic sector. As range and farmland was converted for recreational and residential uses, it became valued for aesthetic purposes rather than agricultural productivity. The Madison County Growth Policy adopted in 2006 amended the 1999 comprehensive plan to bring it up to code with new statutory standards, and the Madison Valley Growth Management Action Plan adopted in 2007 established objectives and implementation measures specific to the Madison Valley.
The board received several written comments from county residents expressing thoughts, opinions and suggestions on the updated growth policy, and a handful of people in attendance at the public hearing Monday took the opportunity to share their concerns about the updated policy with the board.
Multiple citizens expressed concern over the potential for proposed streamside setback guidelines to infringe on private property rights. Section 6.1.1 of the Boards Recommended Actions reads that the County will “work with public and private organizations and landowners to encourage conservation easements, deed restrictions, land exchanges, and other forms of voluntary land conservation as a means of preserving productive agricultural lands, river corridors, and other critical resources.”
County resident David Klem of Mammoth questioned how residents in the South Boulder area would be affected.
“Some of the setbacks on the South Boulder could wipe out peoples lives if they are enforced retroactively, which I believe the plan calls for,” he said.
Board president Laurie Schmidt addressed concerns about streamside setbacks from those in attendance.
“Remember, this is not a regulatory document, it’s a guidance document,” said Schmidt. “Nothing new has been added about zoning corridors or setbacks.”
Table 6.3 on page 6-15 of the policy indicates that the zoning of river corridors has yet to be done:
“County has not zoned any river corridors, though in 2011 the Planning Board recommended zoning the Madison River and its tributaries (20). The County Commissioners decided to seek voluntary compliance. The County is pursuing a position of educator/collaborator to educate property owners before building to address streamside protection, weeds, wildlife recommendations and geologic considerations, and distribution of Code of the New West.”
Following the public comment period the board carried a motion to adopt the draft 2012 Madison County Growth Policy update. Electronic copies of the draft policy may be obtained online.