A Timeline: 1973 - 2016
The Montana Subdivision and Platting Act was first passed in 1973 in order to give communities a process to follow in regards to how land was subdivided within their jurisdictions.
Subdivision and Platting Act amended to require local governments to review subdivision proposals for their impacts on the public interest. Throughout the legislative debates on these amendments (HB 666), the intentions of vesting control over subdivision review with local governments, and of protecting agricultural land water from unchecked development in the state were clear. According to the minutes from the bill’s first hearing, Representative Vincent, the chief sponsor, “stated he was a proponent of this piece of legislation primarily because of the tragic intrusion on the agriculture land base of Montana.
At the request of the County Commissioners, the Missoula Planning Office produced The Missoula County Agricultural Protection Study, which looked at production and consumption patterns, and identified various strategies for protection and promoting agriculture here.
Missoula County Community Food Assessment released. Included survey of 52 farmers and ranchers in the County. Findings included: 71% said that agriculture is “struggling here,” and 65% said the County should “do more” to protect farmland from development.
Missoula urged to protect farmland.
New definition of agriculture adopted in both the City and County subdivision regulations. The definition now includes agricultural soils and clarifies a proposed development’s impacts to agriculture so that it can be more carefully reviewed and mitigated.
CFAC hosted a “Rooted in the Soil,” a farmland protection tour in July. The 65 participants included many elected officials and stakeholders, who were about threats to agriculture and opportunities for local markets.
November: $10 million open space bond passes.
November: Bob Wagner, American Farmland Trust, visits Missoula to share ideas about what has worked elsewhere to protect agricultural land.
Chickasaw Place subdivision debated.
Target Range Neighborhood Plan
In 2008 and 2009, CFAC became involved in the subdivision review process, commenting on 25 proposals regarding their potential impacts to agriculture. Of those 25 subdivisions, CFAC found that 13 would have substantial impacts, dividing 570 acres of highly productive farmland. All 13 were approved.
April: CFAC released Losing Ground: The Future of Farms and Food in Missoula County (Hubbard and Hassanein, April). Based on extensive research, the report documents how the County has lost some 29,000 acres of agricultural land to other uses since the mid-1980s. It lays the factual foundation for implementing a multi-pronged and community-wide strategy that will strengthen our food economy and security, and secure our agricultural legacy.
July: MOR and MBIA release “A Place to Grow: An Informed Discussion on Agriculture and Land Use in Western Montana.”
Montana Legislature considers HB 542, which would have deleted “agriculture” from Montana’s subdivision review criteria and replace it with the much weaker “surrounding agricultural operations.” Vetoed by Governor Schweitzer.
Community debates proposed subdivision, Alexandra Estates (116 acres total; 104 of which are agricultural land; 75 acres of prime soil.)
Planning Board unanimously recommends denial of Alexandra Estates.
December: BCC approves Alexandra Estates
December: BCC publishes opinion-editorial; CFAC responds.
February – Agricultural Protection in Montana: Local Planning, Regulation, and Incentives. A report presented to Missoula County by the Land Use Clinic at the University of Montana Law School.
July – Ideas and Information about Potential Agriculture Policies in Missoula County. Open Lands Citizen Advisory Committee report after reviewing reports from the Land Use Clinic, CFAC, and MOR/MBIA.
August – Planning Board hosts “informational meeting” at the Doubletree Hotel; four reports summarized in oral presentations to the 250 or so attendees. Facilitated by Ginny Tribe.
October – Jean Curtiss explains her position on farmland protection in Missoulian and contrasts her position with her opponent in the election. Promises “discussion” and says she “looks forward to the challenge.”
Rural Initiatives presents “middle of the road” package to Planning Board.
November – RI staff memo to PB on policy concepts.
November – BCC sends letter saying they support the PB’s recommendation regarding package of options to consider and directing staff to work with PB on subdivision regulation revision as “a top priority” for the county.
Public hearing on RI’s package was to be held in February. Cancelled due to State Legislative actions.
Montana Legislature considers SB 147, which would have deleted “agriculture” from Montana’s subdivision review criteria and replace it with the much weaker “adjacent agricultural operations.”
April 22 – Governor Bullock vetoes SB 147.
May – CAPS organizes open houses.
July – CAPS presented the findings and introduces a Framework for Subdivision Regulations on agriculture at the Planning Board Meeting. After the presentation, no further work was done on the Framework.
August – CAPS releases a memo delaying public hearings on the Framework and Regulations
September – CAPS organizes an Informal Agriculture Working Group meeting.
December – CAPS and the National Coalition Building Institute facilitate a follow-up to the Working Group meeting. NCBI submits a 1-page report to CAPS. http://www.co.missoula.mt.us/mccaps/CurrentPlanningPermitting/SRRP/Docs/2014-12-CAPS_NCBI-Report.pdf
June- CAPS released a proposed framework outlining agricultural mitigation measures to be included in the county's subdividision regulations. The proposed framework would have excluded soils of local importance from protection and allowed developers whose proposed subdivisions would adversely impact agriculture to avoid having to mitigate for by paying a fee in lieu between $1000 to $3000 per acre.
CFAC began its Save It, Don't Pave It campaign, teaming up with artist Claire Emery to raise awareness of the issue. In under a month, over 100 supporters of farmland protection posted comments on the CAPS website and sent in postcards.
UM Law School's Land Use Clinic published a follow-up to the 2012 report:
July- CAPS released a revised draft on the 17th that did little to address citizen concerns. CFAC supporters continued to show their support.
August- CAPS released a second revised draft of agricultural mitigation measures on August 14th that afforded greater protections for farmland, including a suite of developer mitigation options. The definition of agriculture in the revised draft still did not include soils of local importance.
Missoulian article by Dave Erickson on upcoming hearing Aug. 29, 2015
September- The Planning Board held a public hearing on the 1st. Supporters packed the City Council Chambers, and gave several hours of testimony. The PB voted to include soils of local importance, but due to the lateness of the hour, the hearing was adjourned before they voted on the proposed regulations. Another hearing, held on the 29th, was declared invalid due to lack of proper public notice and postponed until a later date.
Missoula Independent article Sept. 1, 2015
Missoulian article by Martin Kidston on farmland protection
October- The Planning Board held the next public hearing on October 20th. They approved a draft of the subdivision regulations and voted to recommend that the Board of County Commissioners pass strong protections for farmland in the revised regulations.
Missoulian article by Dave Erickson on PB vote Oct. 23, 2015
December-The Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing on December 8th to decide what sort of agricultural mitigation measures to include in the revised subdivision regulations.
A link to Missoula County's website with the latest draft regulations and recommendations from the Planning Board and staff:
Bob Oakes letter to the editor of the Missoulian Nov. 9, 2015
KD Dickinson LTE in the Missoulian Dec. 23, 2015
Ross Prosperi LTE in the Missoulian Nov. 27, 2015
Jennifer Hill-Hart LTE Nov. 19, 2015
Josh Slotnick LTE for the Missoulian, December 17, 2015
The BCC met on January 13th and voted 3-0 against adopting the Planning Board's recommended farmland protection regulations. Commissioners Curtiss, Rowley, and Rye directed the CAPS staff to focus on voluntary farmland mitigation efforts.
Martha Newell LTE to the Missoulian January 27
List of Acronyms and their Organizations:
BCC – Board of County Commissioners
CFAC – Community Food & Agriculture Coalition
MOR – Missoula Organization of Realtors
MBIA – Missoula Building Industry Association
CAPS – Missoula County and Planning Services
OPG – Office of Planning and Grants
RI – Rural Initiatives