Commissioners approve Seeley Lake Regional Plan

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The Missoula Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday night to approved the Seeley Lake Regional Plan, a years-in-the-making and contentious growth policy that's required for, and sets the limits for, future zoning.

Here's a statement from Pat O'Herren, director of Missoula County Rural Initiatives, who says the document reflects the desire of residents in the Clearwater drainage to grow in a manner that protects conservation resources and economic vitality.

"Speaking for the staff at Rural Initiatives," O'Herren says, "it is obvious that such efforts in rural communities must be started by the community and must be given the time to develop a solid understanding of shared community values. Consequently, while all parties involved in the process are grateful that it's complete after over four years of work, the staff is even more grateful for the professionalism exhibited by the community and the remarkable document they produced that was adopted by the Missoula County Commissioners last night."

And here's a statement from Kathleen Sims, director of real estate law for Plum Creek Timber Co., which, as the largest private landowner in the planning area, initially resisted some of the building densities proposed by the plan:

"It is a compromise that provides for responsible future growth while protecting precious natural resources," she says. "It was through the efforts of Rural Initiatives that the community members, natural wildlife agencies and property owners came together to develop a path that is respectful of resources and private property rights."

The next step, O'Herren says, is for Rural Initiatives staff to modify the document to reflect what he calls fairly minor changes adopted by the commissioners last night. He stresses that while the plan provides guidance for growth in the future, it is not a regulatory document. He says if residents wish to zone their property they now have a template to follow.

For specifics on the document, visit the Missoula County Rural Initiatives website. And check out the Indy's past coverage on wildlife's influence over the Seeley plan and its vulnerability to Plum Creek's protest.

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