Great Falls Tribune - November 4, 2013, By Karl Puckett
New color-coded maps delineating where development is compatible and incompatible with military operations in seven northcentral Montana counties, funded by the Department of Defense, will be rolled out to the public for the first time today in Great Falls.
Matrix Design Group of Phoenix, with assistance from Malmstrom Air Force Base, developed the so-called compatibility maps. The cost was $221,943. The Office of Economic Adjustment, a DOD division, awarded Cascade County a $199,145 grant to fund the work. The county Planning Department matched the remaining $22,798 with work and time its planners provided on the project.
Residents will be able to view and comment on the seven maps, one for each county, at the Cascade County Commission’s office during a 9 a.m. Planning Board meeting and workshop today. The board also is taking comments on revisions to the county’s growth policy.
Maps will assist developers and local planners in reviewing projects near the base in Great Falls and 150 missiles located in Cascade, Chouteau, Judith Basin, Fergus, Lewis and Clark, Teton and Wheatland counties, said Susan Conell, Cascade County planning director.
“It’s a good tool for developers who want to come to the area,” Conell said. “They would know up front if there could be potential issues that would be in conflict.”
Red represents areas that are not a good places to build, while yellow indicates locations where steps to lesson the impact would be needed before building occurs, Conell said. Green areas are OK to build in, she said.
Tall structures, such as cell towers and wind towers, are of particular concern to the Air Force because they could conflict with helicopter flight paths and missile communications systems, said Kim Thiel-Schaaf, Cascade County grant coordinator.
The mapping project was an off-shoot of a joint land-use study that Matrix previously completed.
The study, sponsored by Cascade County and the U.S. Air Force, was designed to prevent conflicts between development and military operations and develop methodologies to prevent them such as the new maps, said Joe Briggs, chairman of the county commission.
Concerns were expressed that the joint land-use study would restrict development, he said.
“The mapping system is designed to make it easier to move forward with compatible development,” he said.
Development is not a concern in the vast majority of areas, Briggs said.
County officials say being able to demonstrate compatible land use is an advantage in maintaining Malmstrom’s missile mission and attracting new missions.
In November 2012, Cascade County OK’d a military overlay district in which builders would need to request a variance from the county in certain areas for structures taller than 50 feet. It was recommended in the study.
Now Cascade County is considering incorporating the new map into its growth policy, which sets the goals and objectives of the county.
Briggs said the growth policy is not regulatory document.
A three-member video crew hired by the Defense Department is in town this week conducting interviews and shooting video in the county and at Malmstrom, Briggs said. The Defense Department is producing an educational video on the joint-land use study process and Cascade County’s study will be featured.
“The video is a great opportunity to kind of highlight what we’re doing about forward-thinking about preserving the mission,” Briggs said.
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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.