Town’s land planner explains subdivision regs, growth and zoning

 By Kay Johnson

The town’s effort to adopt state subdivision regulations has little if anything to do with zoning, according to land planning consultant Dave DeGrandpre. 
“This was actually something the town was supposed to adopt quite a few years ago,” DeGrandpre said, referring to the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act passed by the state legislature in 1973.
DeGrandpre, who has been working with the town since June, speculated that because Terry was already platted, town officials then didn’t see a reason to adopt the state regulation.
“There was certainly no urgency,” DeGrandpre said. “I would bet that Terry is not alone.”
A public hearing addressing the adoption of the subdivision measure will be held Thursday, October 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Terry Town Hall.
The state subdivision regulation governs the manner in which land is subdivided and annexed into a town. It provides municipalities and developers with a timeline and procedural process DeGrandpre said, including: Submittal and review procedures, design standards for proposed roads, water supply, gas and sewage. Developers interested in annexing land to the town or creating a subdivision within Terry could be required to provide a plat map, environmental assessment and information on proposed roads to be built to serve the proposed subdivision, as well as proposed water and sewer systems.
Current town officials first became aware of the state subdivision law after attending a Montana Department of Commerce workshop hosted in Glendive earlier this year. It was one of several workshops organized throughout Eastern Montana to help community leaders address growth issues arising from the recent increased activity of oil and gas development.
Several town and county officials attended the meeting, including Town Attorney Rebecca Convery and Town Mayor Ron Kiosse along with Prairie County Commissioners Todd Devlin and Deanna Bockness.
DeGrandpre said adopting the state subdivision regulation is just one of three tasks that he has been contracted to work on for Terry. The other two tasks include the town’s recent effort to adopt a growth policy and zoning regulations. 
The growth policy is supposed to provide a big picture view of the community including existing conditions, certain trends currently taking place and projections for the future. It is non-regulatory in nature, but is a required step before zoning can be enforced. 
“Zoning cannot be adopted without first adopting a growth policy,” DeGrandpre said.  
Terry’s growth policy will likely encompass maps, charts and texts of the community.
“It’s a big thick report,” DeGrandpre said. “(It’s) a plan to make Terry more competitive, to come up with specific goals to keep Terry strong and alive and maybe even grow.”
Zoning, on the other hand, is regulatory in nature and governs the use of land, breaking the community into certain districts including residential, commercial and industrial for example.
DeGrandpre, who is also working with Richland County, Sidney and Ray, N.D. on similar issues, has met with the zoning and growth policy commissions in Terry about once a month since June. Based in Charlo, Mont., he has contracted with public and private sectors as a private land planning consultant for the past eight years, noting the experience with both has given him a well-rounded perspective on growth and regulatory issues.
The Town of Terry has received two grants from the Department of Commerce’s Main Street Program to aid the town in adopting a growth policy, according to figures provided by Town Clerk Lynn Strasheim.  The first grant awarded totaled $3000, with a committed match from the town of $600.  The second grant awarded totaled $11,500 with a committed match from the town of $2,300.  The total comes to $17,400 with $14,500 from the Main Street Program and $2,900 from the town. Both grants are being administered through Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation.  
DeGrandpre acknowledged that a desire to investigate creating a town water system has been brought up in discussions with town officials, but said the project would likely be an expensive undertaking – into the millions. 
“It’s a big, big deal,” DeGrandpre said of the project. Pointing to the advantages, he added, “In order to attract a hotel, manufacturing or an industry, a municipal water system would be beneficial.”
Anticipating a growth policy for Terry within a few months, DeGrandpre gave no prediction of when zoning would be adopted by the town, pointing out the political underpinnings behind zoning. He stressed both would require public hearings and multiple readings before being adopted by the town council.
“It’s not my job to make sure it happens,” DeGrandpre said of the town’s zoning efforts. “It’s my job to facilitate if the town wants it to happen.”  

Published October 3, 2012

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