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Libby approves new growth policy

by HAYDEN BLACKFORD
Daily Inter Lake | January 24, 2023 7:00 AM

The 2022 City of Libby Growth Policy that took more than a year to fully formulate was approved by the city council at its Jan. 17 meeting.

The plan, which will be in effect through 2032, replaces the city’s 2010 policy. It will go into effect 30 days after passage.

Council member Kristin Smith made a motion to adopt the growth policy update. Afterward, Mayor Peggy Williams then opened the resolution to public comment.

Resident Jennifer Nelson, who was also a member on the planning board that worked on the growth policy, offered up some last minute skepticism to the plan’s downtown policy. Nelson had spoken at a recent city council meeting with similar concerns.

“As this goes to vote I would like to note, for the record, who made the decision for the downtown plan to be incorporated into the growth policy from a plan that was never approved?” Nelson said.

She was referring to the growth policy’s reliance on a 2005 downtown plan that was not initially approved by the city council.

Nelson said that the growth policy's reliance was never discussed in the planning board meetings, although she later admitted that she missed a meeting in May 2022. In a previous city council meeting Nelson was concerned that the focus on the downtown detracted from other needs the city has.

Land Solutions' Joel Nelson, who has helped the city construct the growth policy, said the downtown plan's influence started with funding because money was available from the Montana Main Street Program that the city would receive if it used parts of the old plan. This was discussed in the planning board process, Nelson said.

“The direction I got from the planning board was to pursue that. To make sure that additional aid, those dollars in funding, would apply to the project. To incorporate that limited update to the downtown plan,” Nelson said. “We talked about it all along, and it's always been on the project website at imaginelibbymt.com.”

The draft has acknowledged that the downtown plan was never adopted, Nelson said. The growth plan does have actions the city would take pertaining to the downtown if passed.

“So are you saying there are obligations to the city from a plan that was not adopted?” Jennifer Nelson asked.

“Typically a city’s actions in a growth policy are what the city intends to accomplish,” Joel Nelson said.

Jennifer Nelson exhausted her three minutes to speak publicly, according to Mayor Williams. At this point former councilor Darrel "DC" Orr attempted to yield his speaking time in order to let Jennifer Nelson continue speaking publicly.

Dean Chisholm, the city’s attorney, then said that there is no provision in Robert's Rules of Order, the parliamentary procedure the city follows, that would allow someone to give speaking time to another speaker.

Orr then used his own time to speak publicly on the growth policy. Afterwards, another member of the public had similar concerns to Jennifer Nelson's.

Smith asked the council to remember that the planning board unanimously recommended the growth policy to the council for adoption.

The council then voted 5-1 for approval.

“Thank you to everyone who participated in the process and provided comments. I want to thank the city Planning Board, city Council, Mayor Williams and city staff for all the hard work and patience throughout,” Joel Nelson said. “The project website www.imaginelibbymt.com has been updated to include the final documents.”