SB 135 by Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls) would require that an appeal from a county Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBOA), (which typically handle variances from zoning standards and requirements) be heard “de novo.” A de novo hearing means that the County Commission must consider the appeal “from the start,” and consider all evidence, testimony, and the facts, as opposed to evaluating the legal conclusions and assumptions made by the ZBOA (as is currently done). This bill will unnecessarily bog down the duties of County Commissioners, and render the work and decisions of the initial ZBOA obsolete. ZBOA’s are composed of experts in planning and engineering, who evaluate the different technical aspects of a proposal and reach conclusions based on their expertise. This bill would ignore the expertise and opinion offered by the ZBOA, in favor of political decision-making by elected officials.
Passed the Senate, being transferred to the House.
Derf Johnson, djohnson[at]meic.org