Planning board approves unique zoning for annexed area

By: 
CHARLIE DENISON
Reporter
Friday, May 17, 2019
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Lewistown City Planner Cathy Barta explains the zoning process for Roundhouse Road and other recently annexed areas during Thursday’s Lewistown City-County Planning Board/Zoning Commission meeting at the Community Center.  

Photo by Charlie Denison

Lewistown City Planner Cathy Barta didn’t know what to expect.

Still fairly new to her job, Barta is taking on some projects that have quite a bit of history, and Thursday evening’s City-County planning board/zoning commission meeting was no exception, as the agenda included zoning of annexed areas in Castle Butte, Castle Ridge, Reservoir Drive, Roundhouse and Southland Road.

The City Commission approved the annexation of these properties in 2015 after much contention. Concerned that discord would resurface during the zoning process, Barta made it a priority to be as transparent as possible.

“I wanted to listen to the residents and move forward with residential zoning that worked for them,” she said. 

Starting in February, Barta held three City/County Planning Board meetings to discuss the proposed zoning options: the February meeting educated the public on, zoning regulations, the March meeting was a workshop-type discussion and the April meeting was a review of each proposed zoning district.

“In that last meeting we went line by line through all the zoning districts,” Barta said during Thursday’s meeting. “The four zoning districts being proposed are new and all are residential. They were initiated by the property owners who reside within the proposed districts.”

Potential amendments made to the zoning include increasing the minimum lot sizes, implementing increased setbacks, implementing minimum primary residence size and potentially allowing some agricultural use, such as keeping of livestock and fowl.

“A lot of residents in one area already have fowl, which are grandfathered in, but they want to allow their neighbors to have that same opportunity, especially with the larger lot sizes,” said Barta.

Such a zoning plan is new for Central Montana, Barta said, having some roots in more urban agricultural zoning. However, Barta said this plan stays true to rural Montana.

“I know there is discussion about high-density zoning being better for cities, but we’re not that big of a city,” she said. “We are still rural Montana, and it’s important to maintain a balance.”

Although approved by the Planning Board, the proposed zoning and amendments are subject to approval by the City Commission. The zoning district proposal will go in front of the Commission Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at the Community Center (307 West Watson Street).

Barta said her process must have worked, as no one came to Thursday’s meeting to protest the zoning plans.

“This gives me the impression the residents trust me to go forward and submit this proposal,” she said. “I’m grateful this was amicable and hope what goes forward is what benefits the community.”

Those interested in seeing the proposed zoning map and zoning districts can get a copy at the Lewistown City Office.

For more information, call Barta at 535-1775.

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