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A public hearing on Missoula County’s first comprehensive update in 40 years to its land use map is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 15.

The map is central to the strategic development of the community, and is an integral part of the Missoula County Growth Policy, which guides land use, infrastructure installation and the delivery of services. The draft of the brightly colored map has 15 land use designations, such as agriculture, rural residential and commercial center, which is down from 64 when the current map was adopted in 1975.

At that time, Missoula County’s population was 58,000 people; since then, it’s more than doubled to about 117,000 people, and is expected to reach 140,000 people by 2040. Most of that growth is anticipated to take place in the Missoula Valley.

Andrew Hagemeier, a Community and Planning Services planner, noted that the county spent three years on public outreach, plus a year gathering feedback from area neighborhoods and stakeholders. The county didn’t want designations to be hyper-specific or fixate on communities. Instead, he wants people to consider the ecosystems and how they’ve evolved to create a genuine policy-guiding document.

“The public engagement process zeroed in on several key values important to our communities: housing, existing infrastructure, agriculture, open space, multi-modal transportation, water quality and community identity,” Hagemeier said in a press release. “The map reflects those values and will help drive the decision-making process as the county continues to grow.”

Along with the visual Missoula Area Land Use Map is a 41-page document known as the Land Use Element, which provides background on how the map was created and how it should be used. The Land Use Element looks at commercial, industrial and residential trends, geography, and the relationship between growth in the city of Missoula and in the county, and also is an integral part of the county's growth policy.

“The city is drafting an annexation policy that will guide how the city of Missoula will expand,” the report notes. “It is easy to fall into a trap of planning for these areas in isolation, the county with their plan and the city with theirs. It takes a common vision, leadership, cooperation and deliberate actions to build the community together.

“Most people don’t see a county Missoula and a city Missoula, it’s just Missoula. Housing prices don’t pay attention to city limits. The elk on Mount Jumbo don’t care whose jurisdiction the grass they graze is in. We are one community.”

The Missoula Consolidated Planning Board’s public hearing on the proposed amendment is in the Missoula City Council Chambers at 140 W. Pine St. in Missoula. Drafts of the proposed land use map and land use element are available online at MissoulaAreaMapping.com.

After considering any additional feedback, the Missoula County Commissioners will hold a final hearing to vote on whether to approve the proposed amendment to the growth policy. Once adopted, the map will be used to inform regulation updates such as zoning and subdivision regulations, plan for and extend infrastructure, and guide coordination with partners.

Comments can be emailed to CAPS@missoulacounty.us or mailed to CAPS, 200 W. Broadway St., Missoula, MT 59802. For more information, call Hagemeier at 258-3707 or email ahagemeier@missoulacounty.us.

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