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HB 246: Allow for the zoning of tiny dwelling units
Scot Kerns (R) HD 23
Signed By Governor

This bill adds language into the zoning enabling statutes to expressly allow tiny homes on foundations.  There is a reference to building codes in the language. We reached out to municipalities and found that there is only one jurisdiction that has a size restriction on homes that would preclude tiny homes from being built. In other words, most jurisdictions already allow tiny homes on foundations.

MAP is going to remain neutral and monitor the bill as it progresses.

HB 299: Revise resolution and ordinance requirements re: land use regulation enforcement
Jedediah Hinkle (R) HD 67
Signed By Governor

The Montana Association of Planners supports HB 299 as drafted. HB 299 fixes language that was adopted into law through passage of HB 257 during the 2021 legislative session that some jurisdictions have interpreted as compromising their authority to enforce lawfully adopted zoning regulations in certain instances. It is our understanding that it was not Representative Hinkle’s intent to create this uncertainty with HB 257 and we thank him for his willingness to address these concerns through the introduction of HB 299.

SB 319: Revise laws related to tracts of record
Ellie Boldman (D) SD 45

This bill clarifies that existing tracks of record are expunged when a COS or subdivision plat is filed.  There was an amendment presented at the hearing that would have taken this simple bill and made it incredibly damaging. The amendment essentially said that a COS would not expunge the underline tracts, even if they were not shown, and it would apply retroactively. In other words, a parcel with 4 potential instruments of conveyance from 1908 that were not shown on a family transfer COS from 1988, would still be viable tracks, and if split by the family transfer, those splits would also be viable tracts. This would have  no doubt created thousand of tracts of record retroactively without going through a subdivision, or exemption review, or DEQ review. We were not present to testify at the hearing, but we did work with MACO to put MAP on the record as being opposed to the amendment. The amendment was not include in the bill that passed. We are going to support the bill as drafted and oppose any amendments.

HB 825: Provide funding to address affordable housing
Mike Hopkins (R) HD 92
2nd Reading not passed (H)

The Montana Association of Planners is in support of HB 825, as written. With the current affordable housing challenges in Montana, this bill will financially support efforts for local jurisdictions to assess and implement planning reforms for how best to add housing supplies.

The $25M funds that will become available via planning grants to local jurisdictions is essential to the already tight budgets of planning departments and limited administrative time. It is critical that local jurisdictions have the ability to assess their community’s needs and make zoning changes that fit their local communities growth and development standards.

The Montana Association of Planners views HB 825 as a positive opportunity in Montana’s pro-housing reform that gives the financial tools at a local level, and we urge a pass of HB 895.

SB 268: Revise Laws Relating to Short Term Rentals
Greg Hertz (R)SD6
2nd Reading not concurred (H)

UPDATE: This bill was amended largely for the better. The amendments clarify what a primary residence is, and fixes the notice issue in county zoning. It does not appear to fix the notice issues in municipal zoning. We haven” fully evaluated the amendments to determine if it changes our position.

This bill would prohibit using zoning or other powers to ban short term rentals (STR) in residential zoning districts. It also requires significant analysis on the impacts a zoning amendment (map or text) would have on STR be included in the legal notice regardless if the amendment is designed to affect STR or not.

We are very concerned about the notice requirements. This will dramatically increase the length and complexity of legal ads which does not benefit the public. It also greatly increases the costs of legal ads, which may or may not be passed onto the developer, and if not the developer then to the taxpayer.

We are also very concerned about short term rentals impact on housing supply and costs, especially in our communities where tourism is a major economic driver.

SB 379: Revise zoning laws
LC 0590
Steve Fitzpatrick (R)SD10


This was amended again on the Senate Floor to take out the Family Transfer portion, and there were additional amendments to the context of the zoning. It passed the 2nd reading by 7 votes and will almost certainly make transmittal.

UPDATE 2/28:

SB 379 proposes sweeping changes to Montana’s Land Use Planning statutes, and it was done behind closed doors, with no hearing, and no public comment. SB 379 takes language from two bills that were tabled in the House Local Government Committee (HB 553 and HB 337) and inserts them into a bill that had been tabled in the Senate. In addition, it inserts language from a bill that was never introduced (LC 2494) on family transfers.

SB 379 mandates a single maximum minimum lot size and a single setback for all residentially zoned districts in every city in the state of Montana. Every residential district in a city in the State of Montana will have a minimum lot size of 2,500 sq ft and 5-foot side yard setbacks. This circumvents the purpose and intent of growth policies, the document that local jurisdictions use to plan for and anticipate development where appropriate, by setting a state mandated density. The minimum lot size provision lacks exceptions for areas with public health and safety concerns like flood hazards and high wildfire risk, or for special areas like historic districts.

The bill also supersedes local bulk and dimensional requirements for ADU’s with poorly written, vague, and confusing language. Bulk and dimensional requirements include simple standards like setback and building height. They are measured objectively in feet. They are easy for the public to understand and plan their home projects around accordingly. The vague and confusing language in this bill that will supersede local zoning standards with language that will be hard for the public to decipher, will add subjectivity, and will serve to make projects for the average person more complicated and difficult.

Finally, the bill reworks the family transfer statues. This is troublesome for at least two reasons. First, the bill title is a zoning bill, and family transfers are in the subdivision statutes which is a different subject matter and different chapter in state law. This was done without public notice or an opportunity for comment. The second issue is the wisdom of vastly restricting local government’s abilities to manage family transfers, which are already widely abused. Family transfers do not go through review for their impacts, but they do go through review to determine if the transfer is an attempt at evading review of impacts. The bill keeps the requirement that a local government evaluate a family transfer for evasion of subdivision, but it doesn’t let the local government consider the context of the situation, making it very difficult to determine if there is an attempt to evade. The result will be more division of land with no evaluation for impacts to public health and safety, access, or other considerations.

SB 467: Revise laws regarding local regulation of short-term rentals
LC 3191
Jeremy Trebas  (R) SD 13
Postponed Indefinitely

This one snuck in on us and we have not had time to thoroughly review it. On initial review, it will define a STR as residential, and prevent jurisdictions from prohibiting them. It is much cleaner than the other STR bill (SB 268). The downside is some gateway communities like West Glacier or Whitefish are being burdened by STR. For now, we are going watch the competing STR bills play out.

SB 486: Revise subdivision laws related to glamping
LC 4616
Pat Flowers (D) SD 32

We have mixed feelings about this bill. On one hand, these glamping campgrounds don’t really fit into Buildings for Lease or Rent, and they don’t really fit into spaces for lease or rent in the MSPA. So, jurisdictions can struggle to figure out what to do with them.  On the other hand, this gray area could easily be addressed by zoning for glamp grounds without having to make them go through a long and rather expensive processes of subdivision review. For the time being, we are not going to take a position on this bill, and watch what happens in the Senate Local Gov. Committee.

HB 553: Housing for Montana Families Act
LC 4238
Alice Buckley (D) HD 63

The Montana Association of Planners is opposed to HB 553 as presented. The bill preempts local zoning regulations on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) with specific requirements that may not fit all communities in Montana. Many of these requirements for local regulations lack clarity, include unnecessary language, and inappropriate cross references. These issues with the bill as written introduces more confusion and lack of clarity that will complicate development review of ADUs across the state. MAP continues to be an advocate for improving consistency and clarity, as well as simplifying of our land use development regulations, which this bill will negatively impact.

Specifically, the bill includes the following unnecessary or complicating requirements:

  • Reference to Growth Policy Statutes: this requirement that Growth Policy’s cannot regulate ADUs is unnecessary and redundant leading to more legislative clutter rather than simplifying the process. MCA 76-1-605 already clearly states that a growth policy is not a regulatory document and does not confer any authority to regulate, including ADUs.
  • Confusing cross references & requirements: Sections 5 and 6 of the bill, amending County Zoning regulations, inappropriately references municipal zoning and creates opportunity for inconsistent interpretation. It is unclear how both counties and cities will implement these new requirements. The requirements for setback standards for ADUs at the in the bill are difficult to interpret as written; the lack of clarity will lead to greater inconsistency and application of the law across the state rather than the desired intention to streamline ADU development processes.
  • Size restrictions: Prohibition of ADU size restrictions runs contrary to standard definitions of “accessory” structures in most, if not all, zoning codes. For example, an ADU that is allowed to be the same size or greater than a principal dwelling is no longer accessory, it is a primary use, yet would only be subject to accessory use setbacks and building standards. We recommend setting a limit jurisdiction cannot go below for allowable square footage, and given typical garage size and other accessory structures that are most likely to house an ADU, suggest that 1,000 square feet is a more appropriate state-wide standard.

Many other zoning bills have been introduced that allow for increased infill and development where we have appropriate infrastructure and ability to serve. For instance, Senate Bill 323 that would allow broader multi-family unit types in residential zoning districts would allow for second units that are the same size or larger than the primary dwelling, eliminating the need for ADU designation. This would also allow for appropriate zoning regulations to apply rather than standards that are intended to apply to a structure that is intended to be subordinate in use on the parcel.

We respectfully request a “do not pass” on HB 553 unless amended to address our concerns relating to regulatory clarity, appropriate standards, and definitions of use in development codes.

HB 606: Revise laws related to home-based businesses
LC 1151
Jennifer Carlson (R) HD 69

The Montana Association of Planners is opposed to HB 606 as presented. Most county and
municipal zoning regulations allow for home occupations to take place in otherwise residential
districts provided that reasonable standards are met to ensure the home occupation is not
incompatible with surrounding residential uses and that the commercial use is secondary or
incidental to the primary residential use of the property. HB 606 prohibits many of the common-
sense home-occupation standards employed by local communities, and without sideboards like
these in place, we won’t have home occupations, just commercial businesses operating in
residential areas.
Home occupations can make valuable contributions to local economies, but they need to be
conducted such that they blend in with the surrounding properties, do not generate undue
impacts and burdens to the surrounding homeowners, or result in a reduction in value to the
surrounding neighborhood.

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