I have some thoughts on the current zoning issues in the Valley. I think that with some creative thinking there is room for a win-win situation.
A lot of people moved to the Valley because of the physical space that it provides and the opportunities that go with that space such as having livestock. Also many people don’t like high density living that cities provide and are looking for peace and quiet. It seems to me that allowing for unfettered growth in the Valley is not in the best interest of the Valley residents. It will ultimately, over time, erode the way of life that people were looking for when they moved there by creating higher density living. However, I understand the desire to have control over one’s property and the financial opportunities that parceling it out allows for.
The potential win-win situation that I see here is to create financial incentives for Valley residents who want to sell parcels of land. One idea would be to have partnerships with organizations such as PPLT, the Conservation Fund, Lewis and Clark County Open Space Bond Program, and the like in order to restore the land to a more natural state by doing invasive weed eradication and planting native grasses and native wildflowers. Another idea is to offer property tax breaks for using the land for solar or wind farms – both of which are abundant in the Helena Valley.
Both of these scenarios would not stress the Valley water supply and would not increase the density of the Valley but would provide for financial opportunities. The big bonus would be that regenerating the land would be a boon to the habitat and the solar or wind farms would be a boon to clean energy. These are just a couple of ideas and I’m sure that if people put their heads together they would think of many more.