The Disinformation Campaign about City Annexation and Zoning. Growth Policy Mandates Compact Growth Inside Current City Limits.

August 2023

Postcards have been mailed out announcing a meeting on Thursday September 14 at 6 PM at the Park County Fairgrounds for landowners in the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) – the two miles around the city limits –who “don’t want to be developed and zoned by the City.”

This statement is so bizarrely out of touch with reality that it deserves to be called a disinformation campaign. (The disinformation includes the assertion that the ETJ is a belt three-miles around the City; it is two miles.)

Yes, years ago, under other leadership, the City carried out massive annexations.  Those annexations reflected the prevailing idea that more sprawling development spread over more land was good, regardless of the cost to taxpayers of new roads, water and sewer lines, the damage it would do to downtown by draining away customers and business, and the harms to the environment, with more ranchland, farmland and natural areas turned into subdivisions and strip commercial development.

More recently, under the former City Manager, the City annexed a subdivision, Greenacres, based on concerns failing septic systems might pollute the City’s water supply and the Yellowstone River.

But that was then, this is now.

The City’s Growth Policy favors compact growth inside city limits, not sprawling into the ETJ.

In January of 2021, city leadership began taking a sharp turn away from sprawl. The City Planning Board re-wrote much (but not all) of the draft Growth Policy, with no assistance from the paid consultants or the city staff serving at the time.

The Planning Board’s revised Growth Policy (approved by the City Commission in May of 2021) states:

The majority of the ETJ is expected to continue to remain Pastoral and Open Space.

Livingston Growth Policy, Appendix A, Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction Plan, June 2021 page ETJ 19.  You can read the Growth Policy for yourself here.

The Planning Board insisted that a map showing future annexation areas be replaced with a map (Exhibit 2.8) showing “areas facing development pressure” and rewriting the text to state “These areas do not indicate the City wishes to expand through annexation, nor does it ‘pre-approve’ future growth areas for annexation.” (Appendix A page ETJ 19.)

The “lima bean” map (page ETJ 21 in Appendix A) shows most of the ETJ designated as “Pastoral/Open Space.”

Specific goals and strategies in the Growth Policy emphasize the orientation toward traditional compact development rather than outward sprawl:

Goal 3.1: Prioritize infill over expansion by taking advantage of existing and planned infrastructure, such as transportation, energy, water, and sewer facilities.  

Strategy Promote any growth that maintains the compact, historic development patterns found in the historic city center.

Goal 3.4: Encourage the responsible growth of Livingston by evaluating proposed developments against the ten principles of Smart Growth.

(Unfortunately, elements of the consultants’ original pro-sprawl draft plan were never revised, including land use designations next to the City limits that would allow virtually any kind of commercial development and high-density housing on hundreds of acres.  You can read Friends of Park County’s suggestions for correcting these inconsistencies in the Growth Policy here.)

Don’t want more development in the ETJ?  Then pick one: Conservation easements, city zoning, county zoning or landowner-initiated zoning.

The only ways to protect the rural lands in the ETJ is through conservation easements or zoning.

That zoning could be adopted by the City (with the consent of the County), by the County or by the landowners themselves, as authorized by Montana law.

The City is busy with other issues, so it is not likely to take any steps to implement the Growth Policy by adopting zoning to protect the ETJ from development or even to update its annexation policies.

The County’s 2016 Growth Policy (which may be put on the ballot in June 2024; see story on this subject in the August update) actually encourages development in the ETJ.

Goal 1: Plan for and encourage development in the area around Livingston. 

2016 Park County Growth Policy page 11.

What Friends of Park County is doing and what you can do.

Please join supporters of Friends of Park County at the meeting at the County Fairgrounds on Thursday, September 14 and share the facts about City policy and the ways to prevent sprawling development in the ETJ.

No zoning = uncontrolled development!