Growth policy gauntlet 

The latest news on Flathead County’s proposed new growth policy paints an incomplete picture.

In late August, Collins Planning Associates of Jackson, Wyo., released a review of the policy’s current draft. The review starts with the statement, “It is hard to consider the Growth Policy as a policy plan to guide Flathead County’s future,” before going into 10 pages of specifics.

On Sept. 7, Flathead County held a preliminary hearing on a county budget that doesn’t include any new funding for the growth policy. The policy has been designed as a foundation, with transportation, water and sewer, parks and recreation and other plans to be added later. As of now, no money is allocated for the completion of those plans, though county administrator Mike Pence says budget amendments could provide such funds in the future.

On Sept. 7, the Flathead County Planning Board got its first look at the plan, and was generally disappointed.

According to Jeff Larsen, president of the planning board, their chief issue with the policy is that there are no maps indicating what Flathead County would look like under the new policy.

“You can’t really go any place in the county and figure out what you can and can’t do with your property,” he says.

He says the board was also concerned that component plans wouldn’t be added to the policy until an undetermined future date.

Flathead County Planning and Zoning Director Jeff Harris was not available for comment, but Larsen’s concerns mirror those raised in the Collins Planning Associates report.

The planning and zoning office has released a reaction to Collins Planning Associates critique, which says that Collins misunderstood the document, not realizing that it was just a foundation for the ultimate policy.

Bill Collins, owner of Collins Planning Associates, says he has read the rebuttal, and come to agree with the Planning and Zoning Office.

“Planning is not a one-time shot,” he says. “This is a good approach. I hope they follow through with it.”

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