Lewis & Clark County names members for zoning advisory panel

Posted at 6:18 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 20:37:16-05

HELENA — Lewis and Clark County has selected the members of a new advisory panel that will help shape zoning regulations across the Helena Valley.

On Tuesday, the county commission named 12 voting members of a “blue-ribbon panel,” also known as a Zoning Advisory Panel. Commissioners announced they would create the panel earlier this year, in response to concerns from the public about the new zoning plan they adopted.

Leaders wanted the panel to include members of several classes of stakeholders, like Valley property owners, developers and realtors. They ended up selecting the following applicants:

· John Rausch, broker with Fire Tower Realty
· Mark Runkle and Kim Smith, developers
· Pat Keim, of Baxendale Volunteer Fire Department
· Harold Begger, Helena Valley Flood Committee member
· Jacob Kuntz, executive director of Helena Area Habitat for Humanity
· David Brown, ranch owner and Elkhorn Working Group member
· Tyler Emmert, Helena market president for Opportunity Bank
· Lois Steinbeck, City-County Consolidated Planning Board member
· Joyce Evans and Archie Harper, residents from citizen-initiated zoning districts in Valley
· Dustin Ramoie, Valley resident from outside citizen-initiated zoning districts

Commissioners also named Montana State University professor Eric Austin as a non-voting moderator for the panel.

The panel’s biggest decision will be whether to propose an alternative to a 10-acre minimum lot size in the Helena Valley’s rural zoning district. That minimum was the most heavily criticized part of the county’s zoning plan, and commissioners agreed to delay implementing it to give panelists a chance to look at other options.

The panel will also be making recommendations on zoning rules for the Valley’s urban and suburban districts.

More than 30 people applied to serve on the panel. Commissioners said all were well-qualified, and they thanked everyone who was willing to volunteer for the work.

“Everyone comes with his own particular perspective and natural and right self-interest,” said Commissioner Susan Good Geise. “All of these 12 people who have expressed their willingness to serve – by the time all is said and done – these 12 points of view will coalesce into acting in the public interest.”

The panel is expected to finish its work in about one year. The commission will have the final decision on whether to adopt their recommendations.