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Viewpoint: High praise for Missoula County’s updated zoning regulations

Neva Hassanein

On May 5, the Missoula County Commissioners set in motion the final steps to update our zoning regulations. Remarkably, this hasn’t been done since the mid-1970s. I am grateful to the Commissioners and the County’s excellent planning professionals for their impressive effort to bring us into the 21st century.

The updated zoning code – and mapping it on the land surrounding the City – is the single most effective way to plan for our community’s future. Too often, zoning is wrongly seen as a regulatory tool with little flexibility. The new approach, however, is far more innovative than zoning’s bad rap would suggest.

This cutting-edge zoning incorporates many incentives and density bonuses so that landowners and developers are rewarded for doing the right thing. For instance, clustered development and set asides for conservation of valuable resources, like agricultural soils and historical sites, will be far easier with this code. Up to now, it’s basically been impossible. 

Also, the incentives and options embedded in this forward-looking zoning will go a long way to support sustainability and the regenerative capacity of the ecosystems upon which we all depend. These include easier options for “tiny-home” developments and incentives for affordable housing, as well as green building features, like solar, electric vehicle charging, and more.

I am not alone in applauding this effort.  Many residents and groups (representing a variety of perspectives) have spoken up in strong support. Kudos to the County for its leadership.