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Lake County Leader

Following a process that took more than one year, the Lake County Growth Policy rewrite project has come to a close.

On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the Board of Lake County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution, adopting the growth policy, effective immediately.

A growth policy is an advisory document used to guide development and land use.

Keeping time from when the Lake County commissioners began pursuing a grant to help fund the project, Joel Nelson of Land Solutions in Charlo — who managed the project — noted the entire process took nearly two years.

According to a collective email from commissioners Gale Decker, Dave Stipe and Bill Barron, the county received monies from the Big Sky Trust Fund Grant from the state of Montana for $30,000.

THE GRANT required a match of $10,000 from Lake County, with the county contributing an additional $5,000 “when the task took more time than anticipated to complete,” according to the commissionersw.

Nelson said that over the course of the project, six drafts were written — following public hearings and meetings.

Drafts 1 through 4 were written between last July and this July, he explained, adding that the fifth draft with a resolution of intention was completed July 9.

“On Aug. 21, (the commissioners) acted on that version with minimal changes,” Nelson said.

THE COMMISSION-ERS expressed that they considered “a multitude of public comments” through the draft process, many of which are in the finalized document.

The density map and regulations, part of the growth policy document, were adopted in 2003 and were regulatory, the commissioners explained.

They stated that they want the updated growth policy “to reflect goals and objectives that” are achievable.

“The economics and demographic projections that drove the writing of the old policy have significantly changed, so it was necessary to reflect those changes in the new policy,” the commissioners wrote.

DURING MEETINGS and hearings, county residents voiced opposition to changing the document from regulatory to advisory. Decker previously explained the change during a Lake County Planning Board meeting in February.

“The way [the density map] is now, when folks come in with questions” of what they can and cannot do with their property, they are regulated by the map document.

Moving to an advisory document would make it easier to develop parcels.

Decker acknowledged in February through email correspondence with The Lake County Leader that he is aware of projects that individuals wanted to complete, including creating additional lots on property they owned but were not allowed to do so because of density restrictions.

PREVIOUS REGULA-TIONS will still be considered by the Lake County Planning Department, the commissioners stated in their email, noting that if a submitted application does not comply with density, “the department would need to write findings of fact that support the variation from the designated density.”

The growth policy can be viewed or downloaded on the project website, www.planlakecounty.com, and will also be available on the county website, http://www.lakemt.gov.

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