Gallatin County Growth Plan



  • NEWS:

    The Gallatin County Commissioners have shelved the countywide growth management plan that they have worked on for over 3 years. At first blush, the Commissioners’ decision might seem reasonable; they have stated that, with little development happening right now, there is no need to adopt their plan. Gallatin Grassroots Forum sees it quite differently. The right time to plan for a flood is during the dry season – not when the floodwaters are upon you. Likewise, this is precisely the time to enact their plan to manage growth in a way that protects what is most special about the Valley – before the inevitable flood of development returns.


    Gallatin Grassroots Forum believes it is too important for Gallatin County to delay planning for growth. Yes, there has been a slow down of development caused by the recession – but, Gallatin County is still one of the fastest growing counties in the country. Last year we were again in the top 3% of the fastest growing counties in the United States. If our rate of growth for the next 20 years is the same as it has been the past 20 years, we will almost double in size, adding over 30,000 new houses to the Valley.

    The Commissioners’ countywide rural zoning proposal will save millions in taxpayer dollars, protect rural land values, and safeguard our magnificent landscape and all that it provides: productive ranches and farms, clean water, and great wildlife habitat. This proposal is also is vital to our region’s economic competitive advantage:  it’s our university, our infrastructure (such as the airport), and yes, our wide-open rural landscape, that ensures that advantage.

    Please take a minute to read the key points to consider regarding countywide zoning posted above this message. It briefly outlines why this plan should move forward as scheduled. We have also posted below a short fact sheet regarding countywide zoning.


    We will be organizing an effort to make sure that the Commissioners understand how important it is that they move ahead with countywide zoning, and we will need the help of folks like you who care deeply about the future of our county. It would be very helpful if you could to call, write, or email the Commissioners regarding this decision and urge them to forge ahead. They can be reached at 582-3000, 311 West Main, Room 306, Bozeman, MT, 59715, or


The Commissioners aim to have the growth management plan adopted by late summer or early fall of 2008. This growth management package consists of four parts that will protect property values and sustain farms and ranches, water quality, open spaces, and wildlife habitat. These four parts are:

  • Steering growth to developed areas by limiting home density in rural areas, and create incentives to protect ag lands and open space through home "clustering" (see Draft Rural Density Regulations and Draft Rural Cluster Option).
  • Enhancing predictability within existing developed areas to encourage development there. 

  • Creating financial incentives for rural land protection and creation of a Transfer Development Rights Program (see Draft TDR Program and Draft TDR Guidebook). 

  • Assisting rural land owners by helping them understand all the many options they have with their land.


Steering growth to developed areas:

  • The Commissioners’ plan will establish future growth areas in which new growth will be encouraged. (Future growth areas generally include the existing cities, the areas immediately surrounding them, and some unincorporated areas such as 4 Corners and Amsterdam/Churchill, which have urban services and infrastructure.)

  • All other areas will be identified as rural, where maximum densities will be set at 1 home per 160 acres. For subdivisions designed to protect open space and natural resources, up to 4 homes per 160 acres will be allowed.

 Enhancing predictability within growth areas:

  • The Commissioners’ plan will update the County’s subdivision regulations to establish separate development standards for urban growth areas and rural areas.

  • Within urban growth areas, subdivisions will be required to conform to city development standards (such as street widths and sewer lines) so that when the city’s growth reaches them, they connect efficiently and safely, in a planned manner.

  • Within growth areas, subdivisions will receive streamlined, predictable review.

Creating financial incentives for rural land owners:

  • The Commissioners’ plan will establish a "Transfer of Development Rights" program. This will allow the sale of development rights by landowners in rural areas (where development is discouraged) to developers in future growth areas (where development is preferred).

  • Like the County’s Open Space Program (which is a "Purchase of Development Rights Program"), this program will compensate landowners for preserving their land, while allowing them to continue to own it.

  • Unlike the County’s Open Space Program, it will do so not by using County funds, but by establishing a market in which developers in growth areas purchase development rights from rural landowners. The developer then uses these development rights to build more homes than otherwise allowed.

Assisting rural land owners with options:

  • The Commissioners’ plan will create a Rural Land Use Center to provide assistance to rural landowners who are thinking of developing their land.

  • The Rural Land Use Center will inform these landowners of the many options available to them, both for conserving as well as developing their land.

  • When the landowner chooses to develop, the Center will provide subdivision design help, such as clustering home sites in order to protect farmland, wildlife habitat, and open space.


The County Commissioners held nine Town Meetings throughout the county to present countywide zoning to the public. The Commissioners listened to comments and suggestions from citizens, and gathered input through hundreds of comment cards filled out by the public.

Based upon the public comment received at these meetings, as well as further research, the Commissioners have created a draft of their growth management plan. They continue to hold public meetings to receive public feedback regarding the plan. The Commissioners aim to have the growth management plan adopted by late summer or early fall of 2008.


  • Implements the County’s long-range vision for the future as expressed in its Growth Policy, reflecting values and desires expressed by County residents.

  • Identifies areas that are more appropriate for growth than others, and provides the mechanisms to direct growth to these areas.

  • Sustains the primary economic assets of the County by ensuring that future growth will protect agricultural lands, open space, wildlife, quality of life, and water quality and quantity.

  • Ensures efficient use of roads, sewers and other urban infrastructure already paid for by taxpayers, instead of forcing taxpayers to pay for far-flung infrastructure required by sprawl.

  • Demonstrates that the County is pro-growth by letting developers and businesses know what infrastructure and services will be provided and where they will be located.

  • Promotes common sense development: different parts of the County will have different development standards depending on whether they are in urban areas, areas that are transitioning to urban, or rural areas.

  • Creates a more predictable, efficient, and legally-defensible development process where everyone knows ahead of time what type of growth and conditions will be expected in which areas.

  • Sets forth development standards up front, so that the County can streamline the subdivision review process since both neighbors and developers understand what type of subdivision is required.

What Can YOU Do?

The Gallatin County Commissioners are now formulating a plan to control sprawl and direct growth to our existing communities through a combination of incentives and regulations. In the next few months they will be making the decisions that shape our future. They need to hear from you. NOW is your opportunity to help ensure that Gallatin County remains a wonderful place to live.

  • Join the Gallatin Grassroots Forum to stay informed.
  • Attend public meetings on the subject to voice your opinion.
  • Let the County Commissioners know what sort of future you want to see for Gallatin County—call them at 582-3000.