From Planning comes $$=ZONING=$$ You can "Bank" on it! If you are undecided whether to vote for or against a Sanders County Planning Board, consider this, if voted in, it will Give You a Growth Policy implemented by County Wide Zoning laws (taking away More of Your property rights) and do Nothing to change Sub-Division Problems.


The Planning Board was voted down twice by we the people

The citizens of Sanders County voted in 2002 to dissolve the then-existing Planning Board. Then in 2008 we said NO again. There is no more reason now than then, for a Planning Board, Growth Policy, and Zoning laws. It is not a requirement that we have a Planning Board, Growth Policy and Zoning law. (Reference: MCA 76-1-101)

The commissioners have clearly stated that ‘the Planning Board will be assigned the task of preparing a Growth Policy for the County’. The law (Montana Code Annotated) says that a growth policy must have an implementation strategy and timeline for implementation (MCA 76-1-601). The implementation strategy is a Zoning Law for the County. What that means is that all land under the jurisdiction of the County (except the incorporated towns of Plains, Thompson Falls, Hot Springs, and the Reservation) will be zoned. That means Your Land! The vast majority of Sanders County Citizens do not want county-wide zoning but many have been misled into thinking that Government encroachment will stop with just a Planning Board. State law dictates otherwise.

Zoning laws will be extensive, detailed, and overbearing:

You only have to look next door to our neighbors in Flathead and Ravalli Counties to see what kind of zoning we are talking about. The 900-page "Flathead County Development Code" (FCDC) activated Aug. 1, 2007 is a zoning ordinance, and that fact is stated on page 1 of the FCDC. The adopted regulations follow the Model Legislation published and promoted by the Montana Smart Growth Coalition (a branch of the American Planning Association out of Washington, DC) and was written by a "Smart Growth" consulting firm from Jackson, Wyoming. (Reference: FCDC, Aug. 1, 2007)

The evidence is available, and clear; and lawsuits will result:

The Flathead County residents who analyzed the FCDC before and during the hearings in the spring of 2007 testified extensively about their personal losses of property that would result if passed. The law was passed anyway, and now there are at least twenty lawsuits filed against the County for violations in the FCDC. (Reference: Video of Flathead County hearing March, 2007, available from Flathead County)

Direct Costs associated with the Planning Board:

The proponents claim that we could write our own mild, non-intrusive Growth Policy and Zoning Law. On the other hand they do not know how to do it. They have said we don't have the expertise in Sanders County to write these documents to satisfy the law. Therefore they admit that the Planning Board will have to hire consultants to do this job, just as they did in neighboring Counties. Ravalli County officials hired Clarion and Associates, with offices in Chicago, Denver, etc. at a cost of $400,000 plus. If a Sanders County Planning Board is seated the chances of avoiding a "Smart Growth" zoning law are slim to none.

Large developers will not be stopped:

The very large developers will have the money to pay the huge fees to bypass the zoning regulations (through variances and other loopholes) but individuals acres will be prevented from development.

The laws already on the books are sufficient to handle all problems:

For example, we have been told that we need zoning to force a property owner to clean up his unsightly, messy property. Not true. There is already a process spelled out in State law by which this type of problem can be dealt with. (Ref.: MCA 35-8 part 1)

High costs to residents of Sanders County:

The costs to landowners will far exceed the costs of the Planning Board expenses. Construction cost will rise dramatically with the costs of permits and fees imposed on new construction.

Zoning is obsolete, and there are benefits to non-zoning:

As has been proven in Houston, Texas (both in the city and in the unincorporated areas) zoning is not necessary for organized development of housing, businesses and open spaces. There is no zoning in Houston. That city has won awards for its healthy business climate, and is noted for better than average social values (e.g. less racial tension).

A study of the unincorporated areas around Houston, which also do not have zoning, disproved the theory that zoning, with its attendant permits and inspections, results in improved structural soundness. There were fewer structural problems in the unzoned areas than in all of the zoned areas in the study. So, zoning and building permits are not required for sound construction. (References: "Is Zoning Obsolete?"- article by Walter Block; "The Benefits of Non-zoning" - article by Bernard H Segan, Oct. 25, 2002)

Email =

The Ugly Truth About Seating a Sanders County

Planning Board


It’s going to cost you in many ways. You can "Bank" on it!



We have been told that the Planning Board will be harmless; in fact that it will benefit us. It is time to listen to some real-life testimony of our next-door neighbors in Flathead County who have just gone through the sequence of events we are facing: Planning Board to Growth Policy to Zoning Regulations (which Flathead County has misleadingly titled "Subdivision Regulations"):

Zoning causes loss of property rights:

"With one swooping move you people want to zone the entire Flathead Valley and take total control of our land. I'm sure you think you're going to save the whole valley while taking away all of our rights. Should we be denied the right to develop our land, we will be forced to live out the rest of our lives as paupers." Ellie Allen

Zoning causes loss of property value and economic hardship:

"If this goes through we've got 600 acres we can't do anything with" Archie Lorentzen

"These regulations make development so expensive there will be nobody in Flathead County that can build affordable housing." Greg Carter

"If you enact these regulations people like myself are going to pack up lock stock and barrel and move from of the valley. I've put in over $600,000 in wages into this valley in this year alone. I have property right now that if these regulations go through they will reduce the value of the property to less than what I owe the bank on it. So you leave me no choice, through my bank, to file suits against the county because I don't think you have a right to do that, because it's just stealing property." Doug Skoczek

"My property will not be anywhere near as valuable if I can't develop it, if I have to add 2 access road in there. It is going to be just about impossible to do that. My property, bordering State land with the river behind that, should be more valuable because of that. This property is part of my retirement plan. If you take that opportunity away from me financially it will be a severe setback to me." Lynn Heaps

Examples of typical restrictions caused by zoning:

"We have 524 ft of prime Swan River Big Fork Bay waterfront. It's in a B3 zone. We have water, sewer, natural gas, electric cable, and telephone but with this setback of 200 ft on the Swan, my property which is only 135 ft deep is gone from development. The retirement I have worked hard all my life for is gone; my brother and his family's retirement is gone." Bill Meyers

For further enlightnment, there is a 3 1/2 hour DVD available of testimony from 47 Flathead County citizens for $3.00 from P. O. Box 1563, Noxon. MT. email =




(Emphasis added)

76-1-101. Planning boards authorized. The governing body of any city or town, the governing bodies of more than one city or town, or the governing body of any county or any combination thereof may create a planning board in order to promote the orderly development of its governmental units and its environs.

76-1-106. Role of planning board. (1) To ensure the promotion of public health, safety, morals, convenience, or order or the general welfare and for the sake of efficiency and economy in the process of community development, if requested by the governing body, the planning board shall prepare a growth policy and shall serve in an advisory capacity to the local governing bodies establishing the planning board.
     (2) The planning board may propose policies for:
     (a) subdivision plats;
     (b) the development of public ways, public places, public structures, and public and private utilities;
     (c) the issuance of improvement location permits on platted and unplatted lands; or
     (d) the laying out and development of public ways and services to platted and unplatted lands.

     76-1-107. Role of planning board in relation to subdivisions and plats. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), the governing body of any city, town, or county that has formed a planning board and adopted a growth policy pursuant to this chapter and subdivision regulations pursuant to chapter 3 shall seek the advice of the appropriate planning board in all matters pertaining to the approval or disapproval of plats or subdivisions.
     (2) The planning board may delegate to its staff its responsibility under subsection (1) to advise the governing body on any or all proposed minor subdivisions.

     76-1-307. Compensation and expenses of board members and employees. (1) The members of planning boards shall receive no salary for serving on the planning board but may be reimbursed from local funds for transportation and actual expenses up to but not exceeding state transportation reimbursements and allowable expenses incurred in attending planning board meetings.
     (2) When the planning board determines that it is necessary for members or employees to attend a regional or national conference or interview in another city, county, or state dealing with planning or related problems, the planning board may pay the actual expenses of the attending members or employees provided the amount has been made available in the board's appropriation.

    76-1-501. Jurisdictional area of county planning board. The board of county commissioners shall by resolution establish the jurisdictional area of the county planning board. The jurisdictional area shall include the area which is both outside the incorporated limits of any city in the county as well as outside the jurisdictional area of an existing city-county planning board established pursuant to 76-1-504 through 76-1-507. Should any city or town become represented on the county planning board pursuant to 76-1-111, the jurisdictional area of the county planning board shall be extended to include that city or town.

     76-1-601. Growth policy -- contents. (1) A growth policy may cover all or part of the jurisdictional area.
     (2) A growth policy must include the elements listed in subsection (3) by October 1, 2006. The extent to which a growth policy addresses the elements of a growth policy that are listed in subsection (3) is at the full discretion of the governing body.
     (3) A growth policy must include:
     (a) community goals and objectives;
     (b) maps and text describing an inventory of the existing characteristics and features of the jurisdictional area, including:
     (i) land uses;
     (ii) population;
     (iii) housing needs;
     (iv) economic conditions;
     (v) local services;
     (vi) public facilities;
     (vii) natural resources; and
     (viii) other characteristics and features proposed by the planning board and adopted by the governing bodies;
     (c) projected trends for the life of the growth policy for each of the following elements:
     (i) land use;
     (ii) population;
     (iii) housing needs;
     (iv) economic conditions;
     (v) local services;
     (vi) natural resources; and
     (vii) other elements proposed by the planning board and adopted by the governing bodies;
     (d) a description of policies, regulations, and other measures to be implemented in order to achieve the goals and objectives established pursuant to subsection (3)(a);
     (e) a strategy for development, maintenance, and replacement of public infrastructure, including drinking water systems, wastewater treatment facilities, sewer systems, solid waste facilities, fire protection facilities, roads, and bridges;
     (f) an implementation strategy that includes:
     (i) a timetable for implementing the growth policy;
     (ii) a list of conditions that will lead to a revision of the growth policy; and
     (iii) a timetable for reviewing the growth policy at least once every 5 years and revising the policy if necessary;
     (g) a statement of how the governing bodies will coordinate and cooperate with other jurisdictions that explains:
     (i) if a governing body is a city or town, how the governing body will coordinate and cooperate with the county in which the city or town is located on matters related to the growth policy;
     (ii) if a governing body is a county, how the governing body will coordinate and cooperate with cities and towns located within the county's boundaries on matters related to the growth policy;
     (h) a statement explaining how the governing bodies will:
     (i) define the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a); and
     (ii) evaluate and make decisions regarding proposed subdivisions with respect to the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a); and
     (i) a statement explaining how public hearings regarding proposed subdivisions will be conducted.
     (4) A growth policy may:
     (a) include one or more neighborhood plans. A neighborhood plan must be consistent with the growth policy.
     (b) establish minimum criteria defining the jurisdictional area for a neighborhood plan;
     (c) address the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a);
     (d) evaluate the effect of subdivision on the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a);
     (e) describe zoning regulations that will be implemented to address the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a); and
     (f) identify geographic areas where the governing body intends to authorize an exemption from review of the criteria in 76-3-608(3)(a) for proposed subdivisions pursuant to 76-3-608.
     (5) The planning board may propose and the governing bodies may adopt additional elements of a growth policy in order to fulfill the purpose of this chapter.

     76-3-501. Local subdivision regulations. (1) Before July 1, 1974, the governing body of every county, city, and town shall adopt and provide for the enforcement and administration of subdivision regulations reasonably providing for the orderly development of their jurisdictional areas; for the coordination of roads within subdivided land with other roads, both existing and planned; for the dedication of land for roadways and for public utility easements; for the improvement of roads; for the provision of adequate open spaces for travel, light, air, and recreation; for the provision of adequate transportation, water, and drainage; subject to the provisions of 76-3-511, for the regulation of sanitary facilities; for the avoidance or minimization of congestion; and for the avoidance of subdivision which would involve unnecessary environmental degradation and the avoidance of danger of injury to health, safety, or welfare by reason of natural hazard or the lack of water, drainage, access, transportation, or other public services or would necessitate an excessive expenditure of public funds for the supply of such services.
     (2) Review and approval or disapproval of a subdivision under this chapter may occur only under those regulations in effect at the time an application for approval of a preliminary plat or for an extension under 76-3-610 is submitted to the governing body.

     76-3-506. Provision for granting variances. Subdivision regulations may authorize the governing body to grant variances from the regulations when strict compliance will result in undue hardship and when it is not essential to the public welfare. Any variance granted pursuant to this section must be based on specific variance criteria contained in the subdivision regulations.

     76-3-605. Hearing on preliminary plat. (1) Except as provided in 76-3-505, the governing body or its authorized agent or agency shall hold a public hearing on the preliminary plat and shall consider all relevant evidence relating to the public health, safety, and welfare, including the environmental assessment if required, to determine whether the plat should be approved, conditionally approved, or disapproved by the governing body.
     (2) When a proposed subdivision is also proposed to be annexed to a municipality, the governing body of the municipality shall hold joint hearings on the preliminary plat and annexation whenever possible.
     (3) Notice of the hearing must be given by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county not less than 15 days prior to the date of the hearing. The subdivider, each property owner of record, and each purchaser under contract for deed of property immediately adjoining the land included in the plat must also be notified of the hearing by registered or certified mail not less than 15 days prior to the date of the hearing.
     (4) When a hearing is held by an agent or agency designated by the governing body, the agent or agency shall act in an advisory capacity and recommend to the governing body the approval, conditional approval, or disapproval of the plat. This recommendation must be submitted to the governing body in writing not later than 10 days after the public hearing.

    76-3-608. Criteria for local government review. (1) The basis for the governing body's decision to approve, conditionally approve, or disapprove a subdivision is whether the preliminary plat, applicable environmental assessment, public hearing, planning board recommendations, or additional information demonstrates that development of the subdivision meets the requirements of this chapter. A governing body may not deny approval of a subdivision based solely on the subdivision's impacts on educational services.
     (2) The governing body shall issue written findings of fact that weigh the criteria in subsection (3), as applicable.
     (3) A subdivision proposal must undergo review for the following primary criteria:
     (a) except when the governing body has established an exemption pursuant to subsection (7) of this section or except as provided in 76-3-505 and 76-3-509, the effect on agriculture, agricultural water user facilities, local services, the natural environment, wildlife and wildlife habitat, and public health and safety;
     (b) compliance with:
     (i) the survey requirements provided for in part 4 of this chapter;
     (ii) the local subdivision regulations provided for in part 5 of this chapter; and
     (iii) the local subdivision review procedure provided for in this part;
     (c) the provision of easements for the location and installation of any planned utilities; and
     (d) the provision of legal and physical access to each parcel within the subdivision and the required notation of that access on the applicable plat and any instrument of transfer concerning the parcel.
     (4) The governing body may require the subdivider to design the subdivision to reasonably minimize potentially significant adverse impacts identified through the review required under subsection (3). The governing body shall issue written findings to justify the reasonable mitigation required under this subsection (4).
     (5) (a) In reviewing a subdivision under subsection (3) and when requiring mitigation under subsection (4), a governing body may not unreasonably restrict a landowner's ability to develop land, but it is recognized that in some instances the unmitigated impacts of a proposed development may be unacceptable and will preclude approval of the plat.
     (b) When requiring mitigation under subsection (4), a governing body shall consult with the subdivider and shall give due weight and consideration to the expressed preference of the subdivider.
     (6) (a) When a minor subdivision is proposed in an area where a growth policy has been adopted pursuant to chapter 1 and the proposed subdivision will comply with the growth policy, the subdivision is exempt from the review criteria contained in subsection (3)(a) but is subject to applicable zoning regulations.
     (b) In order for a growth policy to serve as the basis for the exemption provided by this subsection (6), the growth policy must meet the requirements of 76-1-601.
     (7) The governing body may exempt subdivisions that are entirely within the boundaries of designated geographic areas from the review criteria in subsection (3)(a) if all of the following requirements have been met:
     (a) the governing body has adopted a growth policy pursuant to chapter 1 that:
     (i) addresses the criteria in subsection (3)(a);
     (ii) evaluates the effect of subdivision on the criteria in subsection (3)(a);
     (iii) describes zoning regulations that will be implemented to address the criteria in subsection (3)(a); and
     (iv) identifies one or more geographic areas where the governing body intends to authorize an exemption from review of the criteria in subsection (3)(a); and
     (b) the governing body has adopted zoning regulations pursuant to chapter 2, part 2 or 3, that:
     (i) apply to the entire area subject to the exemption; and
     (ii) address the criteria in subsection (3)(a), as described in the growth policy.

     76-3-621. Park dedication requirement. (1) Except as provided in 76-3-509 or subsections (2), (3), (6), and (7) of this section, a subdivider shall dedicate to the governing body a cash or land donation equal to:
     (a) 11% of the area of the land proposed to be subdivided into parcels of one-half acre or smaller;
     (b) 7.5% of the area of the land proposed to be subdivided into parcels larger than one-half acre and not larger than 1 acre;
     (c) 5% of the area of the land proposed to be subdivided into parcels larger than 1 acre and not larger than 3 acres; and
     (d) 2.5% of the area of the land proposed to be subdivided into parcels larger than 3 acres and not larger than 5 acres.
     (2) When a subdivision is located totally within an area for which density requirements have been adopted pursuant to a growth policy under chapter 1 or pursuant to zoning regulations under chapter 2, the governing body may establish park dedication requirements based on the community need for parks and the development densities identified in the growth policy or regulations. Park dedication requirements established under this subsection are in lieu of those provided in subsection (1) and may not exceed 0.03 acres per dwelling unit.
     (3) A park dedication may not be required for:
     (a) a minor subdivision;
     (b) land proposed for subdivision into parcels larger than 5 acres;
     (c) subdivision into parcels that are all nonresidential;
     (d) a subdivision in which parcels are not created, except when that subdivision provides permanent multiple spaces for recreational camping vehicles, mobile homes, or condominiums; or
     (e) a subdivision in which only one additional parcel is created.
     (4) The governing body, in consultation with the subdivider and the planning board or park board that has jurisdiction, may determine suitable locations for parks and playgrounds and, giving due weight and consideration to the expressed preference of the subdivider, may determine whether the park dedication must be a land donation, cash donation, or a combination of both. When a combination of land donation and cash donation is required, the cash donation may not exceed the proportional amount not covered by the land donation.
     (5) (a) In accordance with the provisions of subsections (5)(b) and (5)(c), the governing body shall use the dedicated money or land for development, acquisition, or maintenance of parks to serve the subdivision.
     (b) The governing body may use the dedicated money to acquire, develop, or maintain, within its jurisdiction, parks or recreational areas or for the purchase of public open space or conservation easements only if:
     (i) the park, recreational area, open space, or conservation easement is within a reasonably close proximity to the proposed subdivision; and
     (ii) the governing body has formally adopted a park plan that establishes the needs and procedures for use of the money.
     (c) The governing body may not use more than 50% of the dedicated money for park maintenance.
     (6) The local governing body shall waive the park dedication requirement if:
     (a) (i) the preliminary plat provides for a planned unit development or other development with land permanently set aside for park and recreational uses sufficient to meet the needs of the persons who will ultimately reside in the development; and
     (ii) the area of the land and any improvements set aside for park and recreational purposes equals or exceeds the area of the dedication required under subsection (1);
     (b) (i) the preliminary plat provides long-term protection of critical wildlife habitat; cultural, historical, or natural resources; agricultural interests; or aesthetic values; and
     (ii) the area of the land proposed to be subdivided, by virtue of providing long-term protection provided for in subsection (6)(b)(i), is reduced by an amount equal to or exceeding the area of the dedication required under subsection (1);
     (c) the area of the land proposed to be subdivided, by virtue of a combination of the provisions of subsections (6)(a) and (6)(b), is reduced by an amount equal to or exceeding the area of the dedication required under subsection (1); or
     (d) (i) the subdivider provides for land outside of the subdivision to be set aside for park and recreational uses sufficient to meet the needs of the persons who will ultimately reside in the subdivision; and
     (ii) the area of the land and any improvements set aside for park and recreational uses equals or exceeds the area of dedication required under subsection (1).
     (7) The local governing body may waive the park dedication requirement if:
     (a) the subdivider provides land outside the subdivision that affords long-term protection of critical wildlife habitat, cultural, historical, or natural resources, agricultural interests, or aesthetic values; and
     (b) the area of the land to be subject to long-term protection, as provided in subsection (7)(a), equals or exceeds the area of the dedication required under subsection (1).
     (8) For the purposes of this section:
     (a) "cash donation" is the fair market value of the unsubdivided, unimproved land; and
     (b) "dwelling unit" means a residential structure in which a person or persons reside.
     (9) A land donation under this section may be inside or outside of the subdivision.

     45-8-112. Action to abate a public nuisance. (1) Every public nuisance may be abated and the persons maintaining such nuisance and the possessor of the premises who permits the same to be maintained may be enjoined from such conduct by an action in equity in the name of the state of Montana by the county attorney or any resident of the state.
     (2) Upon the filing of the complaint in such action, the judge may issue a temporary injunction.
     (3) In such action evidence of the general reputation of the premises is admissible for the purpose of proving the existence of the nuisance.
     (4) If the existence of the nuisance is established, an order of abatement shall be entered as part of the judgment in the case. The judge issuing the order may, in his discretion:
     (a) confiscate all fixtures used on the premises to maintain the nuisance and either sell them and transmit the proceeds to the county general fund, destroy them, or return them to their rightful ownership;
     (b) close the premises for any period not to exceed 1 year, during which period the premises shall remain in the custody of the court;
     (c) allow the premises to be opened upon posting bond sufficient in amount to assure compliance with the order of abatement. The bond shall be forfeited if the nuisance is continued or resumed. The procedure for forfeiture or discharge of the bond shall be as provided in 46-9-502 and 46-9-503; or
     (d) any combination of the above.