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Polson commission passes development code amendments, discusses potential economic impacts

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A vote on amendments to subdivision regulations spurred conversation about economic development at last week’s Polson City Commission meeting. 

Amendments to the 2016 Polson Development Code were necessary for compliance with bills passed during the 2017 Montana state legislative session. The City Planning Department developed the amendments in response to two recently passed bills. The amendments were passed unanimously at the March 5 meeting.

Both amendments to Polson’s development code adopted the state-mandated changes. 

House Bill 245 mandates specific deadlines for developers to submit subdivision plans and for city officials to review them.

The amendment that complies with House Bill 445 incited conversation about future development in Polson. The bill creates regulations to ensure opportunities for public comment on long-term subdivision projects that cover multiple segments of land. This type of project is known as phased development. The bill requires submission of more detailed plans and timelines for all phases of the development. 

Commissioner Bob Martin said that House Bill 445 requires investment in plans that would have to be changed as the project progresses. He said that the resources needed to compile and review the in-depth plans required by the bill would be a waste of time for developers and the city. 

“I think the net result of what we’re getting ready to vote on here is that no prudent developer is going to ever do a phased development again in Polson,” he said. 

Martin said that cities benefit from the large-scale planning involved in phased development. He said that without phased development, development in the city would be less cohesive.

“If we don’t have phased development on large parcels of ground we’re going to have random development," he said.

Commissioner Lou Marchello agreed that the changes could be detrimental to the city’s economic state. 

“We’re trying to do whatever we can to help promote growth and industry in the area and if we limit developers I think that’s a problem,” he said.

Commissioner Jan Howlett said that the regulations were created to keep developers from taking action without input from residents. The regulations were put in place as a result of contention over phased subdivisions in Ravalli county.

City Planner Kyle Roberts said that the city has no choice but to implement the changes, as they have been mandated by the state.

Marchello said that he plans to ask representatives in the state government to roll back the regulations in the next legislative session.

Realtor Dennis Duty commented that he too thought that the state legislature should require less initial documentation about phased developments.

“I hope that you will support us next session as we try to make some revisions to this,” he said.

In other business, Mayor Paul Briney proclaimed that March 8 would be City of Polson Retired Educators' Day. Briney is a government and history teacher at Polson High School. All members of the commission voted to pass the proclamation. The resolution states that “every student becomes a better human being and a more responsible citizen because of the dedication and efforts of teachers, administrators and all other personnel.”

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