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County Zoning increases Inequality

The County Commissioners are working on a plan to increase income inequality again. On Sept. 26 they will vote on a plan that will eliminate affordable housing developments. Inequality is a huge problem in America right now. The gap between the haves and have-nots has not been greater since in the 1870s and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Holding down people who want to work hard and succeed is wrong. One of the most universal and effective ways of building wealth is for people to build equity in a home that they buy. Rather than paying money for rent, you can build wealth when you own a home. Home ownership isn’t about just having a white picket fence and a yard, it’s about building stability and financial success. Lewis and Clark counties proposed zoning plan will make it harder for working and middle-class people to afford a home. It will add a burden on these people and make inequality and upward mobility worse. Tell the commissioners to vote against increasing income inequality.

Housing is a Human Right

I am opposed to Lewis and Clark county’s proposed zoning plan because housing is a human right and as the county considers this arbitrary government mandated zoning, the commissioners fail to recognize the effect it will have on affordable housing. By limiting lot sizes, housing and land prices will sky rocket, leading to a significant affordable housing crisis. For renters, their rent could double or quadriple because demand will increase. Housing prices are already expensive and the market for under $250,000 homes are scarce. Many other struggling families will be forced to rent forever, if they could even afford the rent if this obscene plan is passed. The zoning takes away any areas that could possibly be developed for affordable housing. Thus, the commissioners are taking away a human right.

Zoning is not based on science

Lewis and Clark counties propose comprehensive plan disregards good science and public policy in favor of the arbitrary decisions of the planning staff and their supporters. Rather than look at the needs of the community which have been outlined in the county’s growth policy, the planning staff went in and arbitrarily used lot size restrictions to artificially constrain much growth in the county. These lot size restrictions will only hurt most people by making housing more expensive and by not really addressing the real issues such as fire mitigation, infrastructure, and water. Lewis and Clark County Commission meeting on Sept. 26 at the Great Northern Hotel at 8 AM is a place to ask the commissioner to use good science, not arbitrary decisions.


To Whom It May Concern,
I have been a resident in Lewis and Clark County all my life and am raising my family here. During this time, I have seen Helena grow and change for the better. I realize that we all must help direct and incentivize good planning and stewardship with property ownership and development. The current subdivision laws and sanitary regulations have shown to greatly help this. Our County does have areas of concern for flooding, lack of quality water, public access, fire concerns and high density growth adjacent to the City.
However, the proposed new Helena Valley Zoning Regulations go too far and thus I oppose for the following reasons:

  1. Emergency areas of concerns have not been isolated. I do not believe in blanketing areas and ending up with unnecessary limitations.
  2. Limits Tract/Lot area size for large tracts of land for further development. We already have the following protective measures to not over subdivide, for example:
    • Limitations of water rights/usage set by the DNRC for each existing tracts of land,
    • County Subdivision Regulations,
    • County Certificate of Survey Review Committee process,
    • Requirements/regulations for land use and development set by the State Department of Environmental Quality,
    • Requirements /regulations of the Subdivision and Platting Act of Montana,
    • Existing site constraints,
    • Existing Zoning Districts, Covenants, Easements, etc.
  3. Limits the use of Exempt Certificate of Surveys. The zoning limits examples such as:
    • Boundary Relocations (if not conforming to area size),
    • Family Transfers (if not conforming to area size).
    These Exempt COS’s as noted above have protective measures already. The existing review process for these surveys are already reviewed and consideration is given for each and every one.
  4. Adds additional County oversite/restrictions/fees to Non-Conforming Exempt Certificate of Surveys. The current application process works very well with County Survey Review Committee.
  5. Boundaries proposed divide Ries Family Homestead into two different districts, why? This Homestead has no constraints to water/access/fire/soils/etc., thus the Proposed Zoning does not fit the area for growth and development. Therefore, the proposed zoning becomes a control measure not a planning one.
  6. Restricts Landowner ability to use/develop land the way they see fit and removes one of fundamental rights of ownership. The current Landowners’ purchased the property without these new restrictions/limitations, but now has them forced on them without consent. This is not a just process. I do realize in areas of emergency/concern the County may impose protection measures such as Zoning with sound science/studies to warrant the new restrictions/oversight, but I feel they are already doing this legally through the existing subdivision and survey review process.

The concerns I have noted are just some of the reasons why I cannot support this Helena Valley Zoning Proposal. I firmly believe, we must be careful on over-regulating individuals and our society as a whole because we will lose the incentive to grow and develop. The key to a great government is to include all stake holders to the “table”, not just allow a few members of society to direct. Thus, I urge less government and more individual property rights with responsibility/education of sound property management/growth. This will continue to keep our county a fantastic place to live and raise our families and allow our county government to properly manage growth.

Please join with the hundreds of other professionals opposing the zoning on Sept. 26 at 8 AM at Best Western Great Northern Hotel Conference Center and via Zoom. You can also call or email the planning department to express your concerns @ 406-447-8374 or email [email protected].

Christopher J. Ries,
Ries Land and Livestock

Zoning, from a Professional Viewpoint

I am opposed to Lewis and Clark county’s proposed zoning plan because housing prices are already at an all time high. By limiting lot sizes, housing and land prices will skyrocket, amplifying an already existing affordable housing crisis. For renters, their rent could double or quadruple, all because the value of the land on which their apartment sits will become astronomical. Housing prices are already expensive and the market for under $250,000 homes are scarce. As a Broker/Owner, I know that economical housing is difficult to discover. The commissioners fail to recognize the effect zoning will have on affordable housing.

The frivolous lot size now given in the ever changing zoning map now sits at a minimum of 10 acres. Any local development for reasonably priced homes will be impossible.

If you care about the housing crisis in Lewis and Clark County, attend the County Commissioner’s Zoning meeting on Sept. 26 at 8 AM at Best Western Great Northern Hotel Conference Center and via Zoom. You can also call or email the planning department and to express your concerns at the following: 406-447-8374 or emailing [email protected]

Charolette Snyder

Get Involved

If you're against the zoning changes, let the county know! Add your name and email to the list and support us in person September 22 at 9 AM at the Great Northern Hotel where the county commissioners will be discussing their plan.