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Planner Discusses Potential Growth

At last week's Three Forks City Council meeting, community and land use planner Lee Nellis discussed possible future growth in the municipality.

During a presentation about the city's ongoing Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and Impact Fee Project, Nellis told the governing body their recently adopted Growth Policy talks about the possibility of about 600 new dwellings in the municipality over the 20 years.

Nellis said a question that needs to be talked about is if that is feasible, and the first that comes to mind is if the city can produce that much water. He added that all other systems can be expanded; it is just a matter of money.

"If there is no water, no way," he said.

If this type of growth would be feasible, Nellis told the Council they would need to decide if this much growth would be tolerable.

"Even if you can afford it, is it a good idea"? Nellis said.

Having worked on projects in Gallatin County since 1979, Nellis was straightforward in discussing what would happen if the city added to its current infrastructure.

"My message to you is that if you build it, they will come. So, if Three Forks says we are willing to try and figure out how to finance expanded infrastructure, water, sewer, whatever it is. If you're willing to do that and you think that's the future that works for you, then doubling that 600 is not unreasonable," he said.

With the time frame of 20 years and impact fees updated every five years, Nellis said the growth would not be happening instantaneously but noted that many units over 20 years is pretty much constant construction. He added this leads back to the same question of if it is feasible and, if so if it would be a good idea. Nellis asked what the general population of Three Forks might say if there were more than 100 dwelling units added each year.


The City of Three Forks is working with Great West Engineering to update its Capital Improvements Plan, a prioritized list of infrastructure projects with a schedule for the projects and funding sources.

At a May meeting, Jerry Grebenc with Great West Engineering told the Council the CIP is critical for budgeting.

"For a community like Three Forks, with all the projects you have going on, whether it is water, sewer, street, flood mitigation, or trails, having an updated CIP should help the City Council make wise budget decisions," he said.

The deadline for the city to update the CIP is November.

The City of Three Forks has also assembled an Impact Fee Advisory Committee, comprised of volunteers who will work with engineers and consultants to present a recommendation for revised fees to the governing body.

At last Tuesday's meeting, Nellis said the first thing you have to do when figuring out impact fees is to list what you need, and that's why the city has the CIP that Great West is working on.

Nellis said there is a lot of flexibility in what you can charge impact fees for in Montana. He said state law says if you get 2/3 of the vote from the Council, any capital facility can have an impact fee. He added you cannot include operations and maintenance or to remedy existing deficiencies.

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