Archive for July 11th, 2008

by Jason Wiener

Public policy geeks across the city of Missoula thrilled to the news that Module One of the Missoula Zoning & Subdivision Update was released today. (Accompanying maps are available on the same site — zoningmissoula.com — which serves as a clearinghouse for information about the overall effort.) Module One is the first part of a three-part initial draft being written by consultant Duncan Associates as a replacement for Missoula’s current land-use ordinances, which mostly date from the 1930s and 1970s.

News of the draft came in an e-mail from OPG planner Laval Means to the 25-person advisory group that has helped guide the process thus far, a process that has included a town hall meeting, several months of small-group listening sessions and a public workshop as well as several meetings with both City Council’s Plat, Annexation and Zoning Committee and the Consolidated Planning Board. The public workshop covered the material in the Concepts & Directions Report issued in February and serves as the blueprint for the initial draft ordinance language being released today and over the next few months.

The following information accompanied my e-mail about the update. It’s worth reading as a guide to, as it says, “negotiating this unfamiliar document”:

The module is referred to as the “district framework” since it’s intended to facilitate a more in depth discussion of the new ordinance’s zoning district framework.  The module includes an initial draft of several key ordinance sections, set within a proposed outline for the document:

Chapter 19.01 | Introductory Provisions
Chapter 19.05 | Residential Districts
Chapter 19.10 | Business and Commercial Districts
Chapter 19.15 | Industrial and Manufacturing Districts
Chapter 19.20 | Open Space and Public Districts
Chapter 19.55 | Open Space and Conservation Developments
Chapter 19.100 | Use Classifications

As you review this material, please keep in mind that is an initial draft. We’re trying some new ideas and there may be some missteps as we attempt to adapt these concepts to best meet the city’s needs. Changes—even course corrections—can be made if necessary.

Remember too that because the draft ordinance is being delivered in pieces, there are likely to be as many questions raised as answered—What are we going to do about parking? What types of standards will there be to address the possible impacts of XYZ use? The absence of one regulation or another can mean many things: we forgot to deal with it, we are planning to deal with it or we hadn’t planned to deal with it. Don’t hesitate to raise these sorts of questions.
Here are some suggestions for negotiating this unfamiliar document.

1.    Start by looking at 19.01.110F to see how the existing zoning district framework is proposed to be converted under this initial proposal. You’ll see we’re proposing entirely new nomenclature, which though intended to be more intuitive, will surely be disorienting at first. You’ll also see that this draft proposes the consolidation of several districts:
– the A and R-I districts would consolidated into a single classification that we’re calling R5.4 (denoting the minimum lot area, in thousands of square feet);
– the R-XII and MU districts would be consolidated into a new R2.7(M) district;
– the R-III, B and R-IV districts would be consolidated into a single (R1) classification;
– the R-V and BC districts would be combined into a new B2 district; and
– the C-I and C districts are combined into a new C1 district.

2.    You may want to have the district conversion table handy as you review the document. You’ll also want to look at the attached maps to see which areas of the city are affected by the (proposed) consolidated districts.  These maps are intended to support your review and would not be a part of the final ordinance.

3.    After familiarizing yourself with the proposed district conversions start to look through the zoning district chapters, which organize multiple zones into broad groupings: “residential,” “business and commercial,” “industrial and manufacturing” and “open space and public.”  The tables in these chapters should provide an easy way to compare differences among the zones in terms of allowed uses and the types of lot and building standards that would apply.  As a general rule, you’ll find that most of the renamed and consolidated districts are quite similar to today’s districts. That said, there are some substantive changes and new concepts presented here.  A summary of substantive differences between the current ordinance and this module is being prepared and will be distributed next week.

This draft Module includes an overall Table of Contents, so you may view the developed chapters (primarily district chapters) in the context of the overall Zoning Regulations.  The remaining chapters will be developed in depth and distributed as a future Module (but are included with some annotation as you go through this document).  So, while the document may be hefty many pages are included as supportive or background material.

Please keep in mind that there will be many opportunities to comment on this Module and future Modules as this project makes its way through Public Review, Planning Board review and Governing Bodies Review.

If you have any questions or have difficulty reviewing the document please let us know.  Tom and I are available for questions and comments.  I can be reached at 258-3797, and Tom can be reached at 258-4983.

The Advisory Group will review the draft at two upcoming meetings — Wednesday, July 23rd from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, August 14th from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Both meetings will be in the City Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. Comments can also be submitted by e-mail to Laval Means.

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by Rebecca Schmitz

Via Mark T. over at Piece of Mind, here’s what happened to someone who didn’t want to celebrate the life of a virulent, noxious bigot:

Eason, a 29-year veteran of the state Department of Agriculture, instructed his staff at a small Raleigh lab not to fly the U.S. or North Carolina flags at half-staff Monday, defying a directive sent to all state agencies by Gov. Mike Easley…When a superior ordered the lab to follow the directive, Eason decided to retire rather than pay tribute to [Jesse] Helms.

State officials claim they didn’t force Eason to retire. Regardless, Jesse Helms was a disgrace to the nation and an embarrassment to North Carolina. A master of the southern strategy (something our Republican friends like to argue doesn’t exist, despite the example here before us), Helms used his career in public service to sow hatred and discord. He doesn’t deserve to be honored. And his life certainly shouldn’t cause another, better public servant to lose his job.

by jhwygirl

Jay’s got a piece up at Left in the West calling on the Governor to show MT DEQ Director Opper the door….and having read the newest story from the Great Falls Tribune on the mistrials of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality, I have to wonder whether anything less would suffice.

The Missoula Independent’s George Ochenski is saying it too: Out with Opper: Disarray, dysfunction plague state’s DEQ “

Let me just say this %&#* pains me. For multiple reasons.

In its latest trials and tribulations, a recently released legislative audit memo of the water protection bureau of the DEQ gives us the gory details:

90 of 172 Montana Discharge Elimination Elimination System permits expired

27 of 70 Montana Ground Water Pollution Control System permits expired

171 of 1,155 general permits for storm water and concentrated animal feed operations expired

Yikes, right?

Both the DEQ and the DNRC have gotten into trouble, recently, for not issuing permits within legislatively mandated timelines. DEQ has been forced, via court order, to issue open pit mining permits despite the lack of adequate review – and it isn’t as simple as blaming it on the courts – and the DNRC was told to issue a community well permit, after it was denied, for a subdivision in Gallatin County.

In that case, Judge Brown wrote in his decision: “The DNRC must act expeditiously, within the time required by law, and failure to do so results in the approval, as a matter of law, of the requested action.”

So much for senior water rights holders, I guess.

DEQ’s woes are troublesome. They are required with the federal Clean Water Act. The department’s 2003 agreement with EPA called for the backlog of permits to be reduced to less than 10% by July 2004. As of September 2007, EPA statistics show that the bureau has only issued 36% of its major permits, 47% of its minor permits, and 31% of its general permits. The legislative memo states “The bureau does not appear to have the processes in place to effectively manage its workload.

It gets worse.

The EPA has raised concerns about the ability of DEQ to protect water quality.

What?!

According to Julie DalSoglio, deputy director of the EPA Region 8 Montana office, the Water Quality Bureau has caused the agency “major concern” for at least five years.

Failure to meet EPA permit backlog reduction goals could result in loss of both federal funding and the state’s delegated authority. In February 2008, the EPA issued a strongly worded letter to the department expressing concern with the department’s commitment to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issuance. The letter stated the department’s permit issuance goals were insufficient to eliminate the permit backlog. The letter also stated the next Performance Partnership Agreement would not be approved without an acceptable plan to resolve permit backlogs, which is to include a multiyear backlog reduction plan with real milestones. It is unknown what effect continued discharges under expired MPDES and MGWPCS permit standards have on the quality of state waters.

I’ll repeat myself here: What is Montana without its rivers and streams?

It can get worse: In a smoke-and-mirrors move, DEQ has reduced its commitment goals to the EPA for the number of permits the agency planned to issue in 2008, in an attempt to create the short-term appearance of success. This is evidenced by a February 20th letter obtained by the Great Fall Tribune’s Capitol Bureau on July 7th. In it EPA assistant regional administrator Stephen Tuber harshly criticized DEQ Director Richard Opper’s agency’s handling of the water quality permitting process. In the letter, Tuber accused the DEQ of reducing the commitment goals for the number of permits the agency planned issue in 2008 in order to create a short-term appearance of success.

Have I said that the Great Falls Tribune rocks? Cause they do. They’re the only paper, it seems covering these issues. Very thoroughly, I might add.

The water protection bureau is divided into two sections – permitting and compliance/technical support. As of February – according to the memo – the permitting staff (a measly 15 people, statewide) was vacant by 3 people (1/5th). The compliance/technical staff – a whopping 10 full-time people, statewide, had 5 assigned to compliance. That leaves 5 technical specialists to support the permitting AND compliance staff.

So not only do they not have enough staff to comply with legislatively mandated deadlines, they don’t seem to be doing anything to deal with the issue. In a May 12th meeting before the legislative Environmental Quality Council, both staff and Director Opper were asked about staffing and whether there were any steps being taken to request additional staffing and funding for the next legislative session.

The staffer stammered a non-answer and referred it to Opper, who stumbled out a statement saying that they were in a “belt-tightening session” and “working closely with the governor’s staff” on the upcoming budget.

Listen to the minutes of that meeting. There’s some eye-opening statements in there on some of our Republican legislature’s view of the role of environmental regulation. Senator Jim Shockley (R-Victor) is downright gleeful over gravel permits being issued without review.

All of this raises some serious concerns over staffing levels for some of the most important departments which regulate some of the most basic elements of Montana’s citizen’s needs: water and water quality.

We have department directors and bureau chiefs who apparently won’t (or can’t) do their job – inadequate staffing and budget quite apparently some of the greatest instigators – and an executive office which is pushing them towards “belt-tightening” when courts are shredding our Title IX Montana Constitutional rights and our Title 75 Montana Code Annotated laws.

We need leadership, not smoke-and-mirrors and dancing around the elephant that is stomping on our water rights and water qualities.

Take notice, Governor Schweitzer. Stand up, show us that Brand New Day you promised us 4 years ago.




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