The growth plans for Havre and Hill County were approved by the City-County Planning Board Tuesday after some suggested changes and discussion of its purpose during a public hearing in the Hill County Courthouse. The document is part of a comprehensive upgrade on the local growth policy, the first done since 1971. Under state law passed in 1999, in order to make zoning changes or to annex property, a growth policy meeting state guidelines must be approved. Hill County and Havre upgraded their existing policies to meet those requirements and are now in the final stages of approving a new plan. Jim McGowan of Great West Engineering, the firm that wrote the draft document, said it includes required Background information including population, housing, economics, public facilities and public services. That background is covered before the document addresses goals and objectives that are important to the community and provides ideas of how to proceed on those goals and objectives, he said. “It’s important to remember that what we have here is not a regulatory document. It’s a guide to be used by public officials in looking at growth issues, primarily land use i s s u e s fo r t h e f u t u r e, ” McGowan said. “It’s also something that can be built upon and its flexible … it’s not like this can’t be changed.” During the hearing, local residents Jay Springer and Bob Nault both questioned if the plan is comprehensive enough in addressing problems with storm water drainage. “It’s something we run up against in development all the time,” Springer said. Nault agreed. “The storm sewer systems in the city of Havre right now are so plugged and so overwhelmed it can’t take care of the stuff we have right now so any future development that you do you can’t tie into the existing storm sewer because it’s already at capacity.” Springer, and members of the board, noted that storm sewer development is touched on in the plan, al though Springer said he believes it should have more details. Dave Peterson, Havre director of public works, said some work has been done in Havre, with nearly $9 million in storm sewer drain improvements included in the rebuilding of 1st Street two years ago. He said the growth policy is not to set specific policies, but to act as a guide. In addressing storm sewers, for example, it needs to be general, he said “Do we want to revitalize the whole town or start in one section and start working our way through … this is just kind of a guidance thing,” Peterson said. Members of the board told Springer and Nault that specific actions on issues like storm sewer drainage would be applied during the subdivision and permitting process, following the guidelines set by the plan. Additional information about actions on storm sewers could be included in the final document, they added, along with some other issues. Krystal Steinmetz of Bear Paw Development Corp. said the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce has approached her about making some changes in the document, including some goals of the Chamber and projects it would like to see in the document. She passed on a request that representatives of the Chamber meet with the board to discuss those changes. McGowan said that as long as those changes do not change the document substantially, that could be incorporated in the board’s decision Tuesday. Other issues raised to be incorporated in the document included some information and issues that have occurred since the start of the process to draft the policy. Steinmetz said one of those is the creation of the Montana Agro-Energy Industrial Park southwest of Havre, on which work is expected to begin this month, and an inventory completed on bridges in the county. The board approved getting final information to McGowan by the end of March, with the final document completed by the end of April with the board’s recommendation that Havre and Hill County approve that document.
Planning panel approvals city-county growth proposal
Minor changes win OK
Published: Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
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