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Thread: citizen-petitioned zoning districts

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    citizen-petitioned zoning districts

    Okay, folks- I've got a quick question for you:

    Does any state outside of Montana allow for "citizen-petitioned zoning districts" in counties? To clarify- the state of Montana allows citizens in a county to form their own zoning district, with its own boundaries and regulations, within counties that do NOT have county wide zoning. This is a big issue here in MT- none of our counties have county-wide zoning, but many counties have growing numbers of these citizen-petitioned districts. Gallatin, for example, has 16, while missoula and flathead county have, I think, somewhere around 50. That means, for Gallatin, that we have 16 different regulations to deal with- a situation that is akin to having 16 little counties, all with their own set of regulations,within our jurisdiction.

    I'm just trying to figure out if anyone else deals with this situation.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally posted by vaughan
    Okay, folks- I've got a quick question for you:

    Does any state outside of Montana allow for "citizen-petitioned zoning districts" in counties? To clarify- the state of Montana allows citizens in a county to form their own zoning district, with its own boundaries and regulations, within counties that do NOT have county wide zoning. This is a big issue here in MT- none of our counties have county-wide zoning, but many counties have growing numbers of these citizen-petitioned districts. Gallatin, for example, has 16, while missoula and flathead county have, I think, somewhere around 50. That means, for Gallatin, that we have 16 different regulations to deal with- a situation that is akin to having 16 little counties, all with their own set of regulations,within our jurisdiction.

    I'm just trying to figure out if anyone else deals with this situation.
    Wow - that definitely can't happen in NY, NJ or Mass. How are the citizen petitioned zoning districts enforced? What can they regulate? It sounds like complete chaos to me!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vaughan
    Okay, folks- I've got a quick question for you:

    Does any state outside of Montana allow for "citizen-petitioned zoning districts" in counties? To clarify- the state of Montana allows citizens in a county to form their own zoning district, with its own boundaries and regulations, within counties that do NOT have county wide zoning. This is a big issue here in MT- none of our counties have county-wide zoning, but many counties have growing numbers of these citizen-petitioned districts. Gallatin, for example, has 16, while missoula and flathead county have, I think, somewhere around 50. That means, for Gallatin, that we have 16 different regulations to deal with- a situation that is akin to having 16 little counties, all with their own set of regulations,within our jurisdiction.

    I'm just trying to figure out if anyone else deals with this situation.
    Here is Lewis and Clark County, MT, we have 28 special zoning districts, all citizen-created. The level of violations of the zoning regs is amazing. We are in the process of enforcing the zoning violations zone-by-zone. It will take years. You can't even get people to follow the rules when they make them!

    We are also in the process of creating a special zoning district that is county-created. We will see how that goes.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Yes, the enforcement issue is a problem... most enforcement is by complaint. We do issue land use permits to any new structures in the zoning districts, of course, so hopefully we can catch those before they are built.

    I had no idea that Lewis and Clark had 28 zoning districts.

    I'd love to hear more about your "county-created district", otterpop. Is it county wide, to fill in the gaps between your current districts, or is it simply a county-initiated district in a particular area?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Variable Zone Districts are Us

    Do these districts have names like :

    GG- Good Grouping of Shots Zone District; all bullets must be placed within a 5 inch radius at 100', 10 inch radius within 300' B-) .

    SOS- Sawed Off Shotgun zone district; all shotguns shall have a maximum 10 inch barrel beyond the wood stock :-} . Over-Under's shall be no less than 20 inches in length.

    AG- Anything Goes zone district; anything may be built, used, sold, created, stored, drank, eaten, done......

    (no government employees will be allowed within 1000 yards of any of these districts)

    Just kidding with you, but you must see and hear some wild things up thar....?
    (Partly jelous that you manage to work in the field in what must be a challenging but beautiful environment)

  6. #6
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Not in Oregon

    Wow.

    Needless to say, here in the planning utopia of Oregon, such a mish-mash of zoning codes would not fly. State law requires all cities and counties in Oregon to have comprehensive plans that meet the applicable 19 Statewide Planning Goals, including Goal #1 - Citizen Involvement. After having undertaken the "citizen-driven" process to create the plans (& subsequent implementing ordinances), the plans are then supposed to be updated by a "citizen-driven" process every five or so years (known affectionately as Periodic Review). So, I guess we have a similar process..... to yours?..?

    I'm sure that most folks in eastern Oregon would love to have the Montana process in place. In fact, it probably makes some sense, but Portland, Salem, and Eugene aren't about to give up on their land use programs and everyone else gets to come along for the ride.

    Good luck with that.
    Last edited by plankton; 12 Jul 2004 at 8:07 PM. Reason: typo

  7. #7

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    I wondered how long it would take for this to drive you crazy.

    It once was possible for a Utah special services district (a broadly empowered special assessment district that can perform most municipal functions) to have zoning. I think they may have changed it, but if not, it would analogous to the MT situation. I never heard about it being used, however, as Utah counties have real zoning powers.

    I have never searched for a similar statute - just thinking about it is kind of traumatic - but if I were looking, I would look in the South.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I wondered how long it would take for this to drive you crazy.
    By my accounting, its taken exactly 7 weeks. The fact that we have these little districts out there means that a LOT of really, really hardworking people put in serious time working on zoning districts, only to get creamed by angry neighbors (who hate any regulation) in the paper, in public meetings, and face to face. Until we get some brave souls at the county commissioner level, its gonna be tough.

    Thanks for the replies, everyone. You never know- the fact that Montana is the only state (at least the only state in the region) that does this might mean that one day we'll be able to get a county-wide system in place.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    We recently completed review of one of our citizen-created districts. Eleven setback violations on seven lots. Every violator will have to request a variance or move the structure. The Commission gave them one year to comply.

    Only 27 more distircts to go! Yippee!

    We have 28 districts. Most have violations. We have been directed by the Commission to start cleaning them up.

    Vaughan,
    I do sympathize. Hey, if you are going to the Western Planners conference maybe we can meet and compare war stories. Planning in Montana is such fun.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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