Residents of the Amsterdam-Churchill area soon will get a chance to look into the crystal ball and help shape the future of the quiet Dutch community.
The Amsterdam Rural Fire District along with community members and the Gallatin County Planning Department will hold a series of meetings this summer to lay the groundwork for a neighborhood plan, Fire Board Chairman Del VanDenberg said.
Each public meeting will focus on a specific infrastructure need, such as fire and emergency services, schools, roads and sewer and water, VanDenberg said.
Information gleaned from the preliminary meetings will be used for the November “kickoff,” where residents will begin to write policy that will steer growth in the area, Gallatin County Planning Department Director Greg Sullivan said.
“The neighborhood planning process is for (residents) to be the guiding force in what happens out there in the long run,” he said. “(Gallatin County) Commissioners want those people affected by growth and development to have a primary say in how it happens.”
Churchill and Amsterdam, along with Gallatin Gateway and Four Corners, are not incorporated, Sullivan said. Because of that, governmental affairs in the settlement are run by the county, save for fire, sewer and school services.
A neighborhood plan would act as a guideline for growth in lieu of a community government, he said.
The Gallatin County Growth Policy recognizes the areas as existing communities and commissioners want to direct growth to these areas to prevent sprawl and capitalize on existing infrastructure, Sullivan said. But it doesn’t have to happen that way.
“That’s one of the questions this process will answer,” he said. “The people who live there will play a big part in that.”
Neighborhood plans and the growth policy are non-regulatory, but once the document is stamped with residents’ approval, it can sway the commission, County Commissioner Bill Murdock said.
“It gives us kind of a blueprint,” he said.
The farming community is starting to attract development and commissioners are looking for some help, Murdock said. Neighborhood plans are viewed by the commissioners as a grassroots effort, eliminating the need for county officials to use “a heavy hand” and allow residents to “plan their own destiny.”
And the process can’t happen or be effective without the input of the people who live there, Sullivan said.
“The more the public is vested in this process, the more control they will have over the fate of their community,” he said.
The first meeting will address fire and emergency services and will be held June 28 at the Amsterdam Rural Fire Department at 7145 Churchill Road. The discussion will take place after the 7 p.m. fire district board meeting.