The 2023 Montana Legislative session is underway, and there is growing concern about two bills that call to question the subdivision review processes and local control. Through their legislative recap information sources, our colleagues at the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) share the sentiment that cutting out community voices from these types of reviews “undermines land use planning and sustainable communities”. More specifics on the two bills we believe are worth some input, and observation:
* HB 211: (https://meic.org/bill-tracker/#/bills/detail/id/30396/type/state) Keep the ‘public’ in public participation for subdivision review. (https://meic.org/bill-tracker/#/bills/detail/id/30396/type/state) Before a county (or city) commission makes a decision on a proposed subdivision, the Montana Contstiution requires that the public be given sufficient notice of the proposal, and the opportunity to review and comment. HB 211 (Rep. Larry Brewster, R-Billings) would give the local governing body unilateral discretion to decide whether the public should have an opportunity to review new information, thereby potentially depriving the public of a right to meaningfully participate and comment. HB 211 threatens the constitutional right to know and participate, making the bill deserving of a no vote by the House Local Government Committee. Take action here (https://meic.org/bill-tracker/#/bills) . (https://meic.org/bill-tracker/#/86)
* SB 158: More exemptions to the subdivision law. (https://meic.org/bill-tracker/#/bills/detail/id/30396/type/state) SB 158 (Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton) would allow a lot owner within an existing subdivision to divide a portion of their lot and transfer the newly created lot(s) to members of their immediate family without triggering the typical subdivision and environmental review process. The neighbors of this newly-divided land within an existing subdivision would be unable to comment. The potential with this confusing and unclear bill is high for unmitigated cumulative impacts on traffic, water resources, access, fire & safety – critical pieces of infrastructure in any growing communities. Reaching out to your state Senators to request a no vote on SB 158 (https://meic.org/bill-tracker/#/80) will help defeat this bill.
Of course there are additional environmental concerns to keep an eye on, with water, energy, recreational land use and public access, wildlife habitat and conservation funding all coming into play with pending or introduced legislation. We encourage you to engage your state legislators (https://leg.mt.gov/map/) to protect these outdoor assets.
Interested in hearing about how you can join in and defend clean water laws and policy during the Montana legislative session? Check out the Water Watchdog Virtual Briefing (https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAsf-qhrjsjE9AXrxPdSawj6KHqyZKTvCUe?mc_cid=24894e2c94&mc_eid=01561a8aea&mc_cid=b6ecb20ebe&mc_eid=210d3493cd) on January 30th from our friends at the Clark Fork Coalition, and learn about proposed bills that affect water across Montana.