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Survey results discussed at CTAP meeting

At the second of four planned Community Technical Assistance Program (CTAP) meetings in southern Broadwater County, WGM Group and Montana Department of Commerce (DOC) officials discussed last week the results from a recent survey and feedback on land use maps.

Broadwater County has received a CTAP grant from the DOC, which partnered with the WGM Group to facilitate the meetings and planning. As part of the process, possible addendums could be added to the county growth policy and address needs and visions through public engagement and feedback in the northern and southern ends of the county.

WGM Senior Land Planner Jamie Erbacher said Broadwater County needs to work to establish a vision in the south area. She added the county has been experiencing a bunch of growth since 2020, and they are seeing people coming in from out of state or out of county. Erbacher noted the focus of the CTAP grant will be to develop a sub-area plan and to see where residents do not want growth to happen, as well as a potential Professional Engineering Report for water issues.

Erbacher told the audience the objective of a sub-area plan is to provide guidance for the governing body, and it would be an amendment to the growth policy, not a regulatory document.

When discussing the results from surveys and feedback on maps, Erbacher listed six key takeaways from the input: communication and transparency with government, emergency services and schools, infrastructure, water quality and quantity, agriculture, and quality of life. Erbacher said they know water issues are a concern in the county's southern end, and they will include a recommendation for future studies and potential grant opportunities.

Erbacher told those in attendance that the four main concerning trends from the resident's feedback were environmental degradation, water quality decline, increased traffic congestion, and suburban sprawl.

She added the trends with the most support were natural resources preservation, transportation planning, and local government collaboration. Erbacher said preserving agriculture and water resources is definitely a big topic in Broadwater County and asked residents where they do and do not want to see development happen.

DOC Community Planning Program Manager Cody Ferguson shared several future potential funding sources, including Community Development Block Grants (CBDG), Montana Coal Endowment Program, RAISE Grants, Rural Surface Transportation Grants, Renewable Resource Grant and Loan Program, and the State Revolving Fund.

Other funding sources discussed by Ferguson included impact fees, general obligation bonds, special improvement districts, and public/private partnerships.

Gus Byrom, Senior Land Use Planner for the DOC, said the agency has gone into communities to see what the problem is and try to put together an affordable grant and loan package.

According to Byrom, if a water or sewer district was created in the county's southern end, it would become a public entity, opening the door to receive taxpayer funds.

Byrom said the southern end needs engineering studies, which will put options on the table, including doing nothing.

"You are at an incredible time in the history of this county looking at the growth that's occurred and working to articulate your vision," he said.

Two more CTAP meetings are scheduled in the southern end of Broadwater County. The next meeting on Wednesday, November 8, will be an in-depth discussion on water rights and availability. The final meeting scheduled for Wednesday, December 6, will review the proposed future land use map and collect final comments from residents.

Additional information can also be found on the following county website pages: program-interactive-map-and-survey

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