Here are three things you can do personally over the next week that will make a difference in Carbon County. Don’t pass on these — your involvement will make a difference.
1. Please attend: Commissioners response to Silvertip Zone petition
Monday, December 15, 9:00am.
Carbon County Commissioners meeting.
County Administration Building
17 West 11th Street
The Carbon County Commissioners will be responding to the most recent petition from landowners in the Silvertip Zone in Belfry. When approved, the petition will set up a planning and zoning committee that will consider rules for oil drilling within the zone.
Your attendance will demonstrate support for the Silvertip residents, who seek to protect their personal property and livelihoods. Please come if you can.
2. Please attend: Carbon County Growth Policy meeting
Tuesday, December 16, 7:00pm
Carbon County Courthouse
102 North Broadway
Carbon County is in the final phase of updating its growth policy. This is the first update since 2009. The meeting represents a last opportunity for public input into the plan, which is expected to be adopted by the County Commissioners next month. This meeting is a reschedule of the November 25 meeting.
This plan will be in place for the next five years, and will influence regulation of oil and gas drilling, the protection of water, air and soil; the protection of property rights and the long-term economic viability of the County.
You can download the current draft of the 2014 Growth Policy by clicking on the graphic at right. The document is great reading – well crafted and full of information about the history, land, economy and people of Carbon County. You’ll find plenty of charts, graphs and maps that depict the history and current state of the County.
I recommend you read through it before the meeting and consider giving input on areas that you think are important.
Attending the meeting is important because the Growth Plan informs policy direction for five years. If you come and give your point of view, you can affect the final content of the Plan.
3. Provide comments for County Growth Policy
If you are a County resident and you can’t make the meeting, or if you want to provide detailed comments, you can provide input by sending an email with your comments to:
Some important points you may want to consider making:
- One of the five key goals in the growth plan is to “develop the county’s natural resources balancing economic development with environmental responsibility (p. 52).” Key objectives for achieving this goal are to “promote policies and strategies to mitigate potential impacts without deterring natural resource development.” Ways to do this include:
- Coordinate with landowners to enable citizen-initiated zoning districts (enabled through MCA 76-2-101) to mitigate potential impacts of natural resource development.
- Consider possible impact mitigation policies in the development regulations.
- Coordinate with industry, landowners and local leaders to promote “good neighbor” strategies.
- It is absolutely essential that these provisions be included in the growth plan, since one of the key elements of citizen initiated zoning is that the rules of a citizen-initiated zone must be drafted to be consistent with the county growth plan. Inclusion of these objectives will help make sure that this is the case as we move forward with the Silvertip Zone.
- Objectives could also be added to strengthen this section. Examples might include:
- Acquisition of baseline data on air, water and soil quality in areas that are to be developed, and development of programs to mitigate any contamination or erosion of quality
- The inclusion of the right specifically stated in the Montana Constitution to a clean and healthful environment in Carbon County.
- If you read pp. 57-60 of the plan, a process for review is explained for any change of use in land — from agricultural, residential, or recreational to commercial or industrial. The review must cover agriculture, water use facilities, local services, natural environment, wildlife habitat, and public health and safety. Every time a landowner wants to subdivide in a way that means a change of use, these criteria must be considered. However, if the change is to natural resources development, all regulation moves to the state level, with no County requirement for involvement. As we have often explained, the State does not concern itself with these areas of review. The County should apply these same standards of review for land converted to oil and gas development in the growth plan.
- The importance of maintaining tourism in the County, and making sure that any oil and gas development is done within the context of not allowing a conflict that would lead to an environment inhospitable to tourism. While tourism is mentioned in the growth plan, its essential importance to the County is underplayed, and the potential for conflict between tourism and the heavy industry of oil and gas development is not emphasized.