Preparing for growth

Terry Planning Board presents growth policy;
will likely vote next week to recommend Council’s passage

A growth policy for the Town of Terry was presented Tuesday evening to a handful of town and county residents. 
Land planning consultant Dave DeGrandpre of Charlo, Mont., was on hand to acquaint residents with the ins and outs of the 70-plus page report that includes graphs and charts of Terry’s vital statistics, including median age, population and occupational resources of its residents along with housing and other infrastructure demographics.  Much of the data provided was compared with statewide averages.
Interspersed with pictures and maps of the town and surrounding area, the draft growth policy outlined proposed objectives and goals for maintaining Terry’s “unique character” while attracting new residents.
The report is a culmination of a year long effort that began in early 2012 after the Terry Planning Board was formed by the Terry Town Council. Meeting regularly for the past year, the seven-member board contracted the services of DeGrandpre in June to help with the project, using Department of Commerce grant funding as well as town funds.
A growth policy is not zoning, DeGrandpre stressed during the a hour and half meeting held at Terry Town Hall — that was mostly attended by Terry Planning Board and Terry Town Council members. Rather a growth policy is like an insurance plan, DeGrandpre said, giving the town a way to strategize future growth. 
Having a growth policy in place will also give the town additional points when applying for federal grants, DeGrandpre said. He pointed to a possible need to update the town’s sewer system or to install a municipal water system as likely upcoming situations where the town of Terry may need to apply for federal money. 
County resident Sherry Strasheim raised questions early on about the yellow border depicted surrounding the town on the Future Land Use Map found on page 57 of the report. The yellow border depicts a one-mile radius around Terry’s town limits, DeGrandpre said and although the map shows growth designations within that area, the use of land within that one-mile radius is still determined by county officials. The map gives county commissioners an idea of what kind of growth town representatives would like to see occur. County commissioners have the choice of whether to adopt the map or not.
Designating areas of land use
Below is a description of each of the five designations found on the Future Land Use Map.
Agriculture: A wide-ranging area encouraging general commercial and non-commercial farming, the raising of livestock and fowl, as well as agricultural sales, stables, nurseries, bee keeping, kennels and animal shelters, in addition to all types of housing, public, religious and educational land uses, railroad uses and electrical substations, and gas regulator stations. 
Residential: All types of housing, schools, health care, parks, and public land uses. 
Central Business District: An area for the town’s businesses, government, service, and cultural activities. Commercial land uses such as hotels, offices, museums, galleries, restaurants and bars, and also apartments above commercial uses, are encouraged. 
Highway Commercial: A wide-ranging business and light industrial area along transportation corridors for land uses requiring more space than in the central business district but having fewer impacts than general industrial. 
General Industrial: An area set aside for heavy commercial, manufacturing, processing and other industrial uses that will produce smoke, dirt, odors and other impacts, require access to transportation facilities and extensive, open storage space. 
Significant current  conditions addressed
DeGrandpre outlined several key findings listed within the Growth Policy that describes Terry’s current condition. Points addressed included: 
• Declining population:  Peaking in 1950 with about 1,200 residents, Terry has had a fairly steady decline since that time, that has only begun stabilizing in the last 10 years with numbers hovering around 600 people. 
• Aging residents: Montana is old and Terry residents are older still. When compared to national averages, Montana maintains a large number of elderly residents. Terry doubles the state’s percentage with 32 percent of its residents 65 and older.
• Housing: Home ownership is high in Terry and multi-family housing units are sparse. Abandoned and seasonal-use houses are numerous, as well as undeveloped lots within the town.
• Community assets: Among the vital attractions to the community include the Prairie Community Hospital, Murn Park, access to nearby railway and highway and rich natural and historic attractions. An involved business district is also an asset to the town, DeGrandpre noted, but pointed out that many business owners are nearing retirement age with few successors lined up to take over business ownership.
Planner offers recommendations
Two barriers to Terry’s growth include a lack of zoning and not having a town water system, DeGrandpre said. Although not having zoning in place may offer some residents a sense of freedom, DeGrandpre pointed to the predictability zoning offers — assuring residents of what kinds of development can occur in adjacent property.
Although adopting a town growth policy doesn’t require the town to adopt zoning measures, DeGrandpre recommended town officials take that step. 
Installing a municipal water system “may not be feasible” DeGrandpre said, but its worth looking into. 
An outspoken critic
Having attended many of the town’s zoning and growth planning meetings in the past year, according to meeting minutes, town resident Joe Johnson has been an ardent opponent to the town’s efforts to adopt either measure — Tuesday’s meeting was no exception.
         Johnson questioned the need to zone Terry and questioned the use of funds to hire a planning consultant. Those funds should have been used to fix Terry’s streets instead, Johnson said. 
He disputed the need to install a municipal water system, pointing to the accessibility residents have to groundwater through shallow artesian wells. Johnson pointed to the high rates Circle residents have paid since installing a municipal water system.
Goals behind a growth policy and zoning
Pointing to dust caused by the Yellowstone Bean Company’s receiving station, Terry Planning Board Chairman Larry Keltner said that although the company and its manager Bill Ziebarth have been great neighbors to him and the business he works for, he wishes the station was located elsewhere. Having a General Industrial portion of town in place would help prevent residents from being affected by the dust.
        Discussion also arose with the Terry Planning Board members regarding the old drive-in theater, that was purchased several years ago and has since been used as junk vehicle storage yard, which can be seen as an eye-sore to those entering Terry.
The Terry Planning Board will meet Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. to discuss recommending the growth policy to the Terry Town Council.
A copy of the town’s proposed growth policy can be viewed at the Town of Terry website at under the Growth Planning Board tab.

Published Jan. 9, 2013

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