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By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press

SubdivisionsPhoto by Adobe Stock via Montana Free Press.

Lawmakers are considering a Montana Department of Environmental Quality-backed bill that would exempt some smaller subdivision applications from environmental review.

Senate Bill 240 sponsor Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby, said the measure would streamline DEQ’s review process while maintaining environmental protections. The proposal is in line with a larger effort state agencies have undertaken to address housing affordability challenges by reducing the time it takes to approve subdivision applications, Small said.

If SB 240 passes, properties that meet four criteria would be exempted from the environmental review process laid out in the Montana Environmental Policy Act. Subdivisions eligible for the exemption would have to be located at least two miles from “high-quality water” — a designation that applies to surface waters with a recognized beneficial use such as irrigation, recreation or fish and wildlife habitat — and meet DEQ’s “nonsignificance” rule, meaning the proposed wastewater treatment is protective of human health and the environment. The development would also have to contain 14 or fewer residential lots and the developer would have to demonstrate that there is adequate water to supply the subdivision and that rights to that supply have been secured.


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