By Kay Johnson
With just under 20 people stepping up to the podium to speak during Tuesday evening’s public hearing for and against adopting zoning for Terry, Town Council and Zoning Commission members listened and responded to the feedback given.
Town Attorney Rebecca Convery was also present at the meeting, telephonically, providing the town’s legal perspective and reasoning behind the town’s efforts in drafting a zoning proposal.
Montana Department of Commerce representative Allison Mouch was also on hand to answer questions.
“I don’t have a stake for or against the zoning ordinance,” Mouch said. Mouch, who serves as a Community Planning Bureau Chief at the Department of Commerce, was invited by Mayor Ron Kiosse to attend the meeting to help answer questions on the issue.
The meeting began with Kiosse clarifying that this was the second public hearing on the proposed zoning ordinance. Three letters for zoning and one against the measure had been previously received by the Town of Terry, Kiosse said.
In a meeting that lasted well over two and a half hours, with fiery exchanges in three separate instances resulting in the removal of three people, ultimately drew to a close shortly after 9:30 p.m. The mayor adjourned the hearing, explaining council members will be discussing the zoning ordinance at a public meeting later, in light of feedback shared.
Terry resident Jim Ross was one of about 20 people
who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting on zoning.
“Zoning is nothing to be scared of, if it’s done properly,” said Terry resident Jim Ross. “But if it’s not, then you’ve got a problem.”
Ross, who was one of the final audience members to speak, questioned the process the zoning ordinance had been drafted under and encouraged council and zoning members to talk with “their family”.
“Let’s not just tear this town apart,” Ross said. “Take these people’s suggestions ...”
Zoning commission member Eldon Netzer responded by pointing to the changes the commission had already made due to Dick Clarke’s letter to the town, criticizing certain aspects of the proposed measure.
“We’ve changed alot of them already,” Netzer said.
Ross questioned the board’s decision to adopt the zoning map.
“If I would’ve been on that board, I would’ve said: ‘We have some commercial here, it needs to be commercial,” Ross said, referring to large sections of commercial property that is currently zoned as residential. Although grandfathered in as commercial, questions about future use of the property arose during the meeting.
Future landowners could continue the business as is, but any commercial modifications made to the property would be required to go before a variance board.
County Attorney Garry Bunke addressed the group in support of zoning. As a former resident of Miles City, he highlighted instances where zoning proved beneficial to all parties involved.
“Some of the zoning is very good,” Bunke said, specifically pointing to addressing needs to keep fencing low preventing blind spots so motorists can see and establishing setback rules for building codes.
Several in the audience called for the measure to be brought up for a vote in a general election.
Ardent and longstanding detractor to zoning, Joe Johnson addressed the mayor directly, near the conclusion of the meeting.
“Put it to a vote. If it gets 51 percent of the vote, I’d back you 100 percent,” Johnson said.
Published March 20, 2013