River Road subdivision may soon have no zoning regulations

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The River Road subdivision is well on its way to having no zoning regulations, according to information shared at the Dawson County Commission Thursday morning.

“Montana law part one zoning requires that a petition be submitted to the board of county commissioners signed by not less than 60 percent of the owners within the district,” County Planner Forrest Sanderson said. “We did not come anywhere near 60 percent of the landowners to pursue part one zoning. That is off the table. That much is crystal clear.”

During a County Commission meeting on Sept. 18 County Planner Forrest Sanderson explained that the zoning thought to be in place for River Road was not legally enforceable.

“Right now as it stands I cannot ethically administer those regulations,” Sanderson said at the time. “We don’t have the tools that are required by law to have a county zoning district.”

A significant number of residents of the subdivision were on hand at that meeting, and the commission asked them to discuss with their neighbors how they would like to proceed.

“Basically we need direction from the people of River Road on which way they want to go,” Commissioner Gary Kartevold said in Sept.

Subsequently, the commission twice extended the period for receiving that feedback.

Dawson County Clerk and Recorder Shirley Kreiman said there are 78 parcels of land within the subdivision. Of the people who responded on the question of zoning, 17 expressed their preference for no zoning, while 19 expressed their preference to move forward with zoning, although there was not a breakdown between those who preferred part one or part two.

Given the unclear outcome of the feedback received, the county commission will move forward to dissolve the existing zoning district.

Sanderson said that step offers one last opportunity for the neighborhood to step forward and express an interest in zoning.

The entire issue is fraught with confusion. The essential difference between part one zoning and part two zoning is who initiates the process.

Under part one zoning, residents come forward with a petition to ask the commission to zone their neighborhood. Under part two zoning, the commission imposes zoning on the neighborhood.

Sanderson said given the lack of response from residents, the county still has the option of imposing part two zoning regulations.

However before part two zoning may move forward, there is an opportunity for residents to protest.

Sanderson pointed out the number of protesters is based on the number of “freeholders” rather than the number of parcels or residents.

“If the proposal is protested by 40 percent of the freeholders, you may not zone,” he said.

Sanderson explained the freeholder criterion by noting a deed with, for example, five names would have five votes, whereas two deeds with the same name on each would result in just one vote for that owner; someone with two separate parcels of land may only cast one protest vote.

No one knows how many freeholders exist for all the parcels in the subdivision, according to county officials.

“Right now I don’t think you have clear enough guidance to risk somewhere on the order of $12,000 - $18,000 general fund dollars to propose a replacement for that part two zoning,” Sanderson said, adding the next step is to dissolve the current zoning district.

The commission will take up the matter at their Tuesday, Nov. 20 meeting at 5:30 p.m.

In other business:

• The commissioners formally signed the impact fee agreement with Upper Badlands Wind Development, LLC. The commission had previously agreed to the amount of the fee, but were waiting for the formal agreement to be returned from the county attorney.

County Commissioner Dennis Zander said the impact fee is estimated to be $1.25 million over three years.