Agricultural policies were the topic of discussion when the Planning Board met Tuesday night to discuss options for conserving farmland and supporting agriculture in Missoula County. They forwarded to the County Commissioners a revised “Middle of the Road” package for Commissioner approval.
The “Middle of the Road” package comprised several elements including:
- Develop revised subdivision regulations to address assessment of impacts to agriculture and options for mitigation and developer incentives, using the Open Lands Committee’s July report for initial guidance
- Adopt a “Right to Farm” ordinance and hear a presentation from Wally Congdon on Beaverhead County’s ordinance
- Adopt a “local source” ordinance for Missoula County operations and events to provide additional market for local agricultural products
- Create or continue assistance to economic development programs related to agriculture
- Create or continue assistance to economic development projects and initiatives related to agriculture (e.g. meat processing facilities, etc.)
- Research use of an “Agricultural Protection Areas” tool in Missoula County
- Continued use of Open Space Bond funding to protect agricultural land and explore a new Open Space or Agricultural Land Protection Bond, including hearing a presentation from Rural Initiatives on what the Open Space Bond has achieved this far.
The Planning Board asked Rural Initiatives staff to begin work on the subdivision regulations and “Right to Farm” ordinance, and to provide research on a possible growth policy amendment and zoning. Rural Initiatives will forward the Planning Board’s package to the County Commissioners for approval and prioritization.
“We are thrilled with the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting,” says Annie Heuscher of the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition. “We heard a lot of great comments from a wide variety of people and interests and Planning Board was really thoughtful about considering all of those in moving this package forward. It was a late night, but it was well worth it.”
Much work is yet to be done on the agricultural policies. The next step is for Rural Initiatives to present the Planning Board and the public with more specifics on the subdivision regulation revisions, incentives, growth policy amendments, and zoning options. Their next meeting on the topic is scheduled for Tuesday, December 4th.
“The devil is in the details,” said Don MacArthur, an architect and Planning Board member. “From here on out we’ll really have to have some meaty proposals that allow people to dig their teeth in and let us know what they like and what they don’t like. As always, it’s Planning Board’s job to balance interests and this will be a tough one. But the proposals we’ve seen so far give us some really good info to start with.”