The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Revision and Update of the Chouteau County Development Regulations


March 6, 2019

According to Chouteau County’s contract land-use planner, Jerry Grebenc, the County Planning Board and County Commissioners have been working on revisions to the County Development Regulations. The original regulations which were adopted in 1985 and revised in 2011, require permits for the development of homes and new commercial and industrial projects. The Planning Board and Commission saw a number of things that needed to be updated and amended to not only comply with state statute, but also to be more practical for County residents.

Some of the proposed changes include:

• Making permits to build a new house much easier process. The current regulations require a detailed review process for new houses.

• A full explanation of the review process for new commercial and industrial projects to provide clarity and predictability for applicants.

• Explaining the role of County staff, the Commission and the Planning Board in the review of permits.

• Adding language from state law on the requirements for variances, how to amend the regulations and enforce them if necessary.

• Clarifying the definition of terms used in the regulations.

According to Mr. Grebenc, probably the most significant change proposed by the Planning Board and Commission is the removal of setback standards for new houses along the Missouri River. Mr. Grebenc indicated that the Planning Board and the County Commission have several reasons for wanting to remove those standards. These include an issue of fairness, enforceability, legal liability and practicality. The setbacks currently only apply downstream from Fort Benton, thus property owners up stream of the City are not affected. Thus, the Board and the Commission feel removing the setbacks would be equitable to all property owners in the County along the river. In addition, as written the setback regulation can be extremely difficult to enforce. For example, from Coal Banks Landing to the County line along the river, the setback for residential development is three (3) horizontal miles on either side of the river if the development would be visible between the high-water marks of the river. In order to accurately determine such a standard, would require the use of sophisticated surveying techniques, which the County simply cannot afford to pay for. Without accurate information, enforcing the setback standards could pose a legal liability for the County. Finally, the amount of development that has taken place along the river downstream of Fort Benton has been very limited over the last several decades.

As part of the process of considering revisions to the regulations, the County Commission had legal counsel from the Montana Association of Counties (MACO) review the proposed revisions. No major issues were identified by the staff from MACO.

County residents interested in reviewing the proposed changes to the Development Regulations can download a copy from the County Planning webpage at: or they can pick a hardcopy version from the County Clerk and Recorder’s Office at the Courthouse. For more information on the proposed revisions, you can call or email the County Planner, Jerry Grebenc at 406-495-6153 or


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