Future Land Use Map from the Draft Livingston Growth Policy shows the town dwarfed by plans for future growth.
We live in a special place, with immense character and tremendous natural resources. People love this place. No one should be surprised, members of our community have demonstrated significant interest and participation in the city of Livingston’s growth policy update.
Unfortunately, the draft growth policy, released two weeks ago, does not reflect the incredible enthusiasm and input of our community. We’re going to need your help to make it better.
As we’ve all worked over the past year to update Livingston’s growth policy, we've identified two problematic themes underlying the document's update process.
For example, we disagree with this statement from the draft community profile proclaiming: “It cannot be overemphasized that if we wish to pursue economic growth, we must provide for the physical growth of the City.”
We think economic and physical growth do not have to go hand-in-hand.
Second, we are concerned with the city’s adherence to the 2018 Northside Transportation Plan. This plan should not be driving Livingston's growth. This document, which received significant public opposition, calls for 2,240 dwelling units, or 5,600 new residents, on the city’s north side.
What troubles us most about these assertions is their origin. Where did they come from? Who made them, and why are we following them?
A community plan is meant to represent the will of the people. The Livingston Growth Policy is meant to reflect our vision for growth and change as determined by all of us.
Like many of you, we’ve been attending all the community planning meetings to date, and we’re surprised over how out of sync the plan is with what we’ve seen, heard, and read.
Instead of helping promote our downtown, housing affordability, emphasis on the local economy and reducing sprawl, the draft’s main theme seems focused on “the physical growth of the City.”
This is evident in the draft Future Growth Map draft growth policy shown above. Everything in yellow, pink and purple anticipates new growth, in a big way, in just about every direction.
It’s particularly disturbing that this outward expansion is being prioritized over other options for growth or prosperity opportunities Livingston deserves. Simply put, it’s old-school land use planning that values rapid, inefficient land consumption that dries up city budgets, wastes resources and results in costly, disconnected, inequitable living situations.
Livingston deserves better. Let’s use this next round of public participation to ensure that our voices are heard. Keep reading below to learn more about how you can help!
Let the planning board and city commissioners know that we need to have a community-wide discussion on how we want to grow. An Ohio-based firm’s poor summary of public comments should not determine Livingston’s future.
Preserving Livingston's downtown was one of the top concerns we heard from residents.
So what problems do we see?
In the meantime, here are some considerations to think about:
·Support public dialogue: We need to have an open forum about the Future Land Use Map. Comments to date have been gathered outside the public hearing process. Encourage the planning board to devote an upcoming meeting to the Future Land Use Map. Follow smart growth principles and “encourage citizen participation in the community decision-making process.”
·Promote public health, safety and welfare above everything else: The number one responsibility of our government is to protect our health, safety and welfare. Our growth policy needs to promote this as we grow and change. This includes consideration and location of new rail crossings, traffic congestion, and safely accommodating people on foot, bike and wheelchair.
·Cost of sprawl: Growing outward beyond current city limits promotes development dependent on costly new infrastructure improvements (new roads, new water and sewer lines). The city will tell you impact fees and developers will help cover these upgrades, but we all know these costs will only be passed down to future homeowners. Outward growth or sprawl doesn’t equate to affordable homes, nor does it help bolster local businesses. Big box stores are typically the first to move into newly developed centers.
·Prioritize growth in areas with existing infrastructure and prioritize maintenance of existing infrastructure over new construction: It doesn’t make sense to add new roads, sewer and water lines, and additional community facilities, until we can take care of what we already have. Let’s focus on upgrading roads, curb & gutter, parks, trail systems, stormwater systems, etc., before burdening our city coffers with more stuff to maintain. New infrastructure should be sustainable and adaptable. Infrastructure in older and substandard parts of towns should be equitably upgraded.
·Increase, with caution, density in existing neighborhoods: We applaud the city for taking on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as a way to increase density in Livingston’s existing neighborhoods. ADUs can help add needed rentals in areas that have the infrastructure to support additional density. This is great, but caution is needed to ensure the extra housing doesn’t ruin community character, quality of life or add congestion in areas that can’t handle it. Also, it’s important to note that ADUs can add housing stock and benefit residents with an extra income source, but they do not necessarily help first-time homebuyers.
·Get serious about affordable housing: Our future should include a variety of well-designed affordable housing in neighborhoods that are safe, accessible, desirable, designed to harmonize with nature and connect with all the aspects needed to support day-to-day living. We should anticipate and plan for poverty.
·Support sustainable development: Specifically, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable development means looking at the big picture, taking in the community as a whole, instead of piecemeal. Neighborhood planning can help connect growth policy concepts into new development. We support the creation of sustainable neighborhoods that are thoughtfully integrated into our community, complementing, instead of distracting from, existing community centers like our downtown.
·Prioritize code upgrades: It is important to remember that because the growth policy is not a regulatory document, it’s essential that policies be drafted as regulation in future subdivision and zoning regulations. Rewriting the subdivision and zoning codes will, and should, take time to ensure these important community priorities become mandates. New development should not be encouraged until new codes are finalized.
Park County Environmental Council
PO Box 164
Livingston, Montana 59047
(406) 222-0723 email@example.com