Livingston, Montana Growth Policy – Compact Growth Not Sprawl
One of the things that prompted the formation of Friends of Park County was the initial draft growth plan which the City had contracted out to Burton Planning Services. Their original draft of the full proposed Growth Policy document and appendices are listed here:
Friends of Park County was quick to notice several issues with the original draft growth plan, specifically that not enough emphasis was given to infill, and immediately engaged with the City of Livingston Planning Board to raise attention to these concerns.
On November 16, 2020, FPC recommended the Livingston Planning Board revised the draft growth policy to make development and redevelopment of land inside the current city limits the first and highest priority for accommodating new growth.
Based on analyses made by Dennis Glick of Future West and consultant Robert Liberty, we made the case that there is more than enough land within city limits to accommodate future growth at a rate of 2% over the next twenty years (which would result in a 50% increase in population). This strategy is preferable to growth beyond current city limits:
- It would avoid wasting taxpayer money by instead using existing infrastructure and services.
- It would promote public and private investment in existing neighborhoods, the downtown area, and possibly former industrial and commercial sites.
- It avoids the likelihood of compromising natural resources and working lands beyond city limits.
We also emphasized to the Planning Board that the Yellowstone River, the city’s greatest natural amenity and natural hazard, deserves to be better planned and protected.
We also noticed this motion which was drafted by the planning Board on December 1:
Friends of Park County brought consultant Robert Liberty in to testify on our behalf regarding land use needs for anticipated population growth:
As well as providing testimony from our board members:
Upon facing considerable opposition both from public comments as well as other testimony, the Livingston Planning Board proposed a revision for the growth policy:
Friends of Park County followed up with more comments and recommendations to the Livingston Planning Board in our December 14, 2020 document, which were based on the goals and beliefs of our group:
- Infill and redevelopment within city limits is preferable to developing outside of city limits or expanding city limits to accommodate growth.
- A greater emphasis on the importance of protecting working lands outside of city limits—not terming them “undeveloped lands” or “open space”—and recognizing their traditional value and use for food production.
- Considering the future of the rail yards and associated risks of pollution to the river and aquifer.
- Welcoming and supporting the potential for undeveloped areas within city limits that are undesirable for development to be considered for de-annexation.
- Expanding on what it means to “maintain existing agricultural uses within the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction.”
Subsequent meetings saw us offering further testimony on Extra Territorial Jurisdiction:
In our written testimony to the Livingston Planning Board for their February 3 meeting on Planning and Zoning for the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) and Future City Growth, we made four major recommendations with supporting evidence:
- Eliminating the “Very Low Density Residential” (VLDR) future land use designation from the “Recommended Future Land Use Map” as it would authorize almost 26,000 new homes on half acre lots around Livingston, enough housing for 59,000 people.
- Replacing the undefined “Manufacturing” land use designation for the five square mile area of the ETJ with a “Gravel Mining, Processing, and Storage” designation. This is the existing use of the site—the continuation of which may be appropriate—and requires a more exacting designation that fits it.
- The study, planning, and designation of the ETJ for rural land uses and resources—including agriculture, wildlife and water, and to avoid damages to resources, people, and property. We made clear our belief that the ETJ should not be designated for either future urban development or rural residential development:
- An “Agriculture” land use designation should be defined and applied for much of land in the ETJ.
- Fish, wildlife, and other natural resources in the ETJ should be identified and protected with appropriate land use designations.
- The Yellowstone River and wetlands in the ETJ should be protected by defined land use designations.
- “Hazard Area” land use designations should be used to keep people and property out of the path of floods and wildfires.
- The adoption of future land use designations to prevent water pollution and depletion in the ETJ.
- The collaboration of the Livingston Planning Board and the Park County Planning Board to adopt protective interim land use designations and zoning until additional planning is complete and final land use designations are made for the ETJ. These interim land use designations should prevent the ETJ from becoming a ring of rural sprawl around the city.
And as the process moved forward, we offered testimony on several other chapters of the revised draft growth policy, making recommendations to the board that focused on our concern regarding the overall compact growth and infill development strategy within city limits, the adoption of recommending limiting the overall land area of the city (while allowing for possible adjustments to city limits within that size cap), and the clarification of language and definitions regarding subdivision regulation and future growth rates used by the staff and board.
The results from all of this effort was a draft which was a significant improvement over the document that was first under consideration, as it went from the Planning Board to the City Commission, there were a handful of further improvements which we felt are vital to resolving some concerns;