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Planning Commission members sought

| January 17, 2024 2:00 AM

The City of Columbia Falls is recruiting volunteer, unpaid applicants for a new Planning Commission as it works toward complying with a law passed by the State Legislature in 2023. The need to create the new Planning Commission follows the enactment of Senate Bill 382, commonly known as the Montana Land Use Planning Act. The city has until May 17, 2026, to fully implement the Planning Act.

The Council approved establishing the Commission at five members and will formally approve the establishment of the Commission and the term of service on Jan. 16, 2024, by resolution.   Upon full implementation and compliance with the act, the Planning Commission will be created by ordinance with all the roles and responsibilities outlined in the act – combining the functions of a traditional planning board with the functions and responsibilities of the zoning commission and board of adjustments.

Initially, the Planning Commission will focus on the review and recommendation of an updated Land Use Plan and map, updating the city zoning regulations and zoning map, and updating the subdivision regulations. All five positions will expire on May 17, 2026, or when the act has been fully implemented, whichever happens first. The City Council will have the opportunity to re-appoint members of the Planning Commission or appoint their successors once the first term expires.

While the City works on implementing the act, it will still have the Columbia Falls City-County Planning Board/Zoning Commission and the Board of Adjustment. Once the Planning Act is implemented, the Planning Commission will assume the responsibilities of both those boards, and they will cease to exist. 

The City of Columbia Falls is accepting letters of interest for the City Planning Commission. Letters may be submitted to City Clerk Barb Staaland at staalandb@cityofcolumbiafalls.com or City Hall, 130 6th St. W., Columbia Falls, MT 59912 by Jan. 26. The City Council has asked that your letters of interest address the following questions:

1.Why do you want to be on the New Planning Commission?

2. How do you define growth? For our City to stay vibrant, growth is essential. What kind of growth do you envision?

3. What is your understanding of zoning regulations and how they apply during the planning process?

4. What approach should the Planning Commission use in engaging the community in the new planning process? 

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