(HELENA) Lewis and Clark County leaders say they want to get more input from the public before they make a final decision on new proposed zoning rules around Fort Harrison.

The county commission held a hearing Thursday on the proposed regulations for the Military Affected Area. The area includes more than 20,000 acres, mostly within one mile of the fort boundaries.

County leaders say the changes are intended to minimize any future conflicts between military operations and the people in the surrounding area. That includes both concerns from residents about noise and dust from the fort and concerns from the military about lights, tall structures and dust interfering with air training.

“The neighbors around the fort have been wonderful neighbors for many years,” said Laura Erikson, the county’s community development coordinator. “This is looking to hopefully stop future incompatibility.”

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Leaders are considering putting limits on the height of structures and on outdoor lighting, requiring all residential properties to be at least 10 acres, and prohibiting more than two dwellings on a single property.

Existing structures that don’t meet the requirements will be allowed to stay, but owners will have to receive a development permit to make changes.

During Thursday’s hearing, property owners raised concerns that the zoning rules would be too restrictive, would interfere with their ability to develop their land and could reduce their property values.

“I was really concerned that we are looking at regulations which are unnecessary and potentially destructive of our property rights,” said Jean O’Connor.

Some residents also said they didn’t feel there had been enough notice of the possible changes and the reasons behind them. Others questioned why the restrictions should apply to properties separated from the fort by ridges.

Commissioner Susan Good Geise said she appreciated the concerns property owners brought up. She said the county will consider all of the questions brought up, and might make changes to the plan.

“If we’ve got some flaws in our product or our process, we want to hear about them now, rather than after we vote,” said Geise.

Geise said the commission will hold another public meeting on the Military Affected Area Oct. 26, but won’t make a final decision then either.

“Frankly, I’m not quite sure when we will,” she said. “Being right is going to be more important than being quick.”

You can see the current proposal for regulations in the Military Affected Area on the county’s website.

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