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City staff explained Wednesday how the Montana Land Use Planning Act, passed in the last legislative session, will change Missoula's approach to land use. The law applies to cities with more than 5,000 residents in counties with more than 70,000 residents.

Other cities affected by the law include Kalispell, Great Falls, Bozeman, Billings and Columbia Falls, said Madson Matthias, deputy city planner. Other places may sign up.

Among several changes, the law will reduce the number of site-specific developments with public hearings before the Missoula City Council. Instead, many of these decisions will be made by city planning staff, with a planning board serving as the appeals body.

The new law focuses public participation on the creation or modification of a city's land use plans and building regulations.

“This means that the scope and opportunity for public participation and comment on site-specific projects will be limited to impacts that were not previously identified and considered in the adoption, amendment or updating of the land use plan, zoning regulations or subdivision regulations,” said Emily Gluckin, deputy city planner.

Gluckin cited the example of a large development proposal with increased traffic impacts that have not previously been considered in city plans or ordinances. This hypothetical situation could warrant further analysis and a public hearing period.

Missoula is currently in the process of updating its zoning and building codes, which includes two open houses addressing Garden City growth next week. The Missoula Public Library will host the events on July 17 and 23, beginning at noon and 4 p.m., respectively.

For more information on how the state law impacts Missoula, visit Engage Missoula.

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