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Laurel planning board postpones decision on growth policy and zoning

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Posted at 12:25 AM, Jan 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-18 08:06:34-05

LAUREL - Laurel citizens put the NorthWestern Energy gas plant front and center on Wednesday night, concerned about a proposal looking to amend the city's five-year growth policy.

The Laurel-Yellowstone City-County Planning Board voted to table the growth management policy update.

"We do not have the minutes nor do we have the input from the county commissioners or the county attorney," Judy Goldsby, planning board chair, said about the reason for postponing a vote.

Since the growth policy is needed to work on zoning issues, the board also tabled the county's request to consider zoning regulations around Laurel in the planning jurisdiction.

"It was discussed with the county attorney that we cannot move forward with any kind of zoning regulations until the growth policy has been settled," said Kurt Markegaard, Laurel city planner.

Those opposed to the NorthWestern natural gas plant say they're concerned about the city giving up its zoning jurisdiction and the potential change from agricultural to industrial zoning.

"This isn't the zoning change per se, but it sets the stage for the first step. And so as soon as you see that shows up on plans, you need clarification, you need to object to this potential use."

"I want to rest assured to you as a resident out there, there's nothing that this planning board or the county commissioners or the city council is trying to do and change zoning at this time," said Markegaard.

NorthWestern Energy put out a statement before the meeting.

"Required permits were secured and regulations were met before construction on the Yellowstone County Generating Station began in the fall of 2021," Jo Dee Black, Northwestern public relations specialist stated in an email. "All Northwestern energy projects, including the Yellowstone County Generating Station, are designed in the best interests of our customers and the communities we serve."

Before making a decision, the board will hear more from the public at an open workshop on Jan. 31.