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Input sought on local growth plan


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Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]

Meetings are set for early next week to collect ideas on where Havre and Hill County should try to go in the next five to 10 years. “The whole point of this growth policy is to get public input and local government officials don't always know everything that needs to be done,” said Hill County Planner Clay Vincent. “That's why we're going to try to get everyone involved.” The first phase of collecting information for writing a growth policy for Havre, Hingham and Hill County has created a draft document listing existing conditions in the region. The next phase will create a document detailing guidelines for growth. “A growth policy is basically a guide,” said Krystal Steinmetz, communi ty planne r at Bear Paw Development Corp. “It is a guide for development, for growth. (Growth policies) are really a way for a community to approach growth and development in a proactive manner, rather than reacting to situations that may arise.” A comprehensive upgrade The Hill County, Havre City-County and Hingham planning boards have been working wi th Great West Engineering of Helena in writing the plan. Vincent said the project, which already has seen several months of work, is the first major upgrade on the local growth policies since 1971. He added that much of the information in that document still is applicable and is being incorporated in the new document. Steinmetz said the existing documents have been upgraded to meet state requirements, which specify several issues that must be addressed. The next document is a more comprehensive effort. “This will be a much broader update of the existing planning document,” she said. While state law does not require growth plans be in place, having such a policy is a requirement for governments to annex properties or make zoning changes, she said. The updated document will improve the local governments' chances of receiving grant funding through a variety of programs, Steinmetz said. While a growth plan generally isn't a requirement in applying for a grant, the programs administering grants typically ask if such such a plan is in place and the applicant scores more points if it is. “It definitely helps in grant applications,” she said. Collecting input Steinmetz said Hingham already collected information for its portion of Phase 2 Havre, Hingham and the county each will have separate documents created for that phase, examining the unique need of each entity. Hingham conducted a community needs-assessment survey by mail, she said. The meetings in Havre to collect input have been broken into three categories. Each will start at 7 p.m. in City Hall on 5th Avenue and 4th Street. The meeting Monday is set to collect ideas about downtown and business development in Havre and the county, housing and residential needs and education. Tuesday's meeting will cover recreation and tourism, transportation and infrastructure. The final meeting, set for next Wednesday, will cover land use including zoning and agricultural use. Steinmetz said the planning boards involved hope that everyone with an idea or concern comes to the meeting or submits a written comment to help write the growth policy. “This is really an opportunity for them to share any concerns or any ideas about the future of the community,” she said. “This is their opportunity to have an impact on what the future of Havre and Hill County will look like.” Short- and longrange planning Vincent said the information will be used to plan both nearterm actions and long-range growth in the area. Some issues include immediate needs like upgrading streets and roads or water and sewer infrastructure, others include longer- range planning such as zoning that could be changed in the city or county. Those plans could set how development in the area proceeds, he said. “You've got to look past your nose,” Vincent said. He said that state law requires the growth plan to be updated every five years, although once the comprehensive plan is completed the upgrades should be much shorter and simpler. The existing drafts are available for viewing at Bear Paw Development on 2nd Avenue and Main Street, at the Hill County Planner's Office in the Hill County Courthouse Annex on 3rd Street and 4th Avenue, and at the Havre Office of Public Works at Havre City Hall on 5th Avenue and 4th Street. Steinmetz said people who want to submit ideas but can't attend the meetings can send c omme n t s t o : K r y s t a l S t e i nme t z , B e a r Pa w Development Corp., P.O. Box 1 7 0 , Hav re, MT 5 9 5 01 . Comments must be received by May 15. “I hope people take advantage of one of the two, if they can't come to the meetings submit written comments,” she said. “The more community involvement the better the document will be.”


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