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By Alex Miller, Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer

A bill that proponents believe could speed up development and centralize land-use decisions was heard by a Montana Senate committee Wednesday.

The Senate Local Government Committee considered Senate Bill 130, which intends to give county commissions the option to consolidate different land use boards into one body.

The bill would allow county commissions to consolidate planning boards, zoning commissions and boards of adjustments into a single body with at least five members appointed by a commission.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, said during the hearing that the reasoning for the bill was that several counties in the state struggle to fill a single volunteer board, let alone several.

Mandeville said that it made sense to combine the boards because they all have similar areas of review, like zoning compliance, variances and subdivision reviews. The bill could also help streamline development.

“This would speed up the development process by creating a centralized board that could hear all three potential issues,” Mandeville said.

The Montana Association of Counties, the Montana Association of Realtors, the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Montana Association of Planners and Missoula County urged the committee to pass the bill.

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