Thinking About Smart Growth in Montana

Gallatin County, Montana, has experienced 20 percent population growth over the last eight years, and officials are hoping that the adoption of smart growth principles will help guide the rapidly developing area towards a sustainable future.

"Population growth: more than 20 percent since 2000. New single-family home lots approved in two years: more than 2,000. Subdivisions: popping up like crabgrass and eating up acre after acre of historic, precious farmland."

"Gallatin County is exploding, and finding ways to guide that explosion so it doesn't destroy the way of life its residents cherish is proving to be a tough battle."

"'With traditional land-use principles, most growth occurs in towns, because that's where it makes sense, and that's where the infrastructure and services are,' Carpenter said. 'But over the past quarter-century -- in this county and throughout the West -- those land-use patterns have started to change, and we're seeing more dispersion of development out into the countryside.'"

"That dispersion -- known in the trade as sprawl -- creates serious, negative impacts, Carpenter said. And combating sprawl tops of the list of smart-growth philosophies Carpenter said Gallatin County needs."

"Sprawling rural subdivisions eat up prime agricultural land, pile infrastructure costs onto the backs of taxpayers, degrade water quality from widespread use of wells and septic systems and damage wildlife habitat, Carpenter said."

"'What we need to do is return to those traditional patterns of growth, because it just makes more sense,' he said. 'What thoughtful communities throughout the West are doing is finding ways to guide that growth back into their towns.'"

Full Story: Growth warriors: the battle against sprawl

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