Montana Legislature passes substantial land use reforms to promote housing and planning

The Montana Legislature, not generally known as a bastion of left-leaning principles, has passed several bills designed to promote land use planning and, specifically, the development of missing-middle housing in its cities.

Perhaps the most significant of the bills is SB 382, the Montana Land Use Planning Act. The fifty-two page bill, among other things, will require cities of 5,000 or greater in counties of 70,000 or greater to create land use plans. It sets out processes for public participation in, and the adoption of such plans, and requires plans to address (1) existing conditions and population projections, (2) housing, (3) local services and facilities, (4) economic development, (5) natural resources, environment, and hazards, (6) land use and future land use map, and (7) implementation. It also sets forth a schedule for the review and possible amendment of land use plans, and permits jurisdictions to adopt area plans and issue plans that provide more detailed analyses of any component of the land use plan.

SB 245 will require local zoning in cities over 7,000 in an urban area to allow multi-family housing and mixed-use development in commercial zones that previously only allowed office and retail.

SB 323 will require local zoning in cities of 5,000 or greater to allow duplexes in single-family neighborhoods.

At the same time, the Montana Legislature passed SB 406, preventing cities from adopting building codes more stringent than the state building code.

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