Missoula’s zoning regulations haven’t been significantly changed since the 1930s, so the city is in the midst of crafting and rewriting the zoning laws that help shape our community.

Ward 2 Missoula City Councilor Jordan Hess appeared on the KGVO City Talk segment of Talk Back on Friday. Hess is also the chair of the council’s Land Use and Planning Committee.

Hess described the city’s growth policy.

“The city has a growth policy,” began Hess. “Most communities in Montana have a growth policy. This is a long-range plan that really articulates what we want our community to look like. I like to say that it's the ‘north star’ of our community. It's the direction we point the ship as far as what we want to look like in 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years, and the growth policy has a map associated with it. There are types of development that are encouraged in that in certain areas of that map, and others that are not encouraged.”

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While the growth plan looks ahead in broad terms, the zoning regulations deal with the nuts and bolts of building and development.

“So the growth policy is visionary and it is a planning document,” he said. “But then we have to have a regulation that coincides with that. So that's where the zoning comes in. Our zoning code goes back to the 30s, and we're currently in the process of updating that. So that's one thing that I think will be of great interest to the community. But the day-to-day workings of the Land Use and Planning Committee is really implementing the zoning, essentially implementing the growth policy through our zoning.”

Hess said Montana’s property laws provide many freedoms for land owners.

“Montana is a very private property rights-centric state, and it is not the purview of the local government to say you can't develop your property,” he said. “Zoning is really those controls to make sure that it does fit within the character of the community, that it meets the health, safety, and welfare of the community that it doesn't create adverse impacts to the community. It's really setting the sideboards to make sure that the impacts aren't greater, or outsize to the project.”

Hess said modernizing the zoning policies will help give developers more confidence in the system to plan more much-needed housing in Missoula.

“What we're talking about is modernizing the code,” he said. “So, instead of rummaging around in a junk drawer trying to find what you're looking for, it's all arranged in a neat, tidy, orderly fashion. I think that'll really provide our developers some predictability on what they're able to build in our community. It'll also give Missoula residents predictability on what might be coming next to them and their neighborhood.”

Get more details by clicking the Engage Missoula website.

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