Efforts to complete the remaining pair of neighborhood plans in Gallatin Gateway and the Churchill area are underway, and county officials are hoping both groups will adopt recommendations from the county gravel pit task force to govern mining in the areas.

The gravel pit task force came up with a recommendation, but the document hasn't gone before the County Commission just yet, committee chair Don Seifert said. The document calls for setting up a single issue-zoning district that will govern gravel pits in all the unzoned portions of the county.

Commissioners have said they likely won't pursue that route given the outcry over the county's effort to implement rural zoning regulations governing density in unzoned areas of the county.

The agricultural community rose up and likely had the needed muscle to nix countywide zoning in those circumstances.

But Commissioners have said they would support utilizing the gravel pit task force document in neighborhood plans and zoning districts around the county. If so, gravel pits would be regulated through a conditional-use permitting process.

The task force was charged with coming up with a long-term solution to the contentious gravel mining issue before the interim zoning regulations end next May. Rather than impose the rules countywide, commissioners said the current neighborhood plans and the Belgrade planning jurisdiction in the works should take care of the problem since most land-use conflicts lie in the areas covered by the three plans.

'All of the gravel pits are where zoning is underway,' County Commissioner Steve White said. 'We need to focus on the immediate areas where the residences are.'

But with the interim period coming to end in six months, county officials are wondering if the problem will start anew if some type of zoning isn't in place. There is something of a push needed to finalize the plans now that deadline is on the horizon, County Commissioner Joe Skinner said.

'I think it's a driving force because the people in Gateway, Churchill and the Belgrade doughnut, once the interim zoning runs out, will be left without any protection,' he said.

The commission adopted the Gateway group's plan in February. Efforts to start writing zoning regulations will take place next month, once a committee is formed.

The Churchill plan is nearing adoption and a lot of the zoning regulations have been hashed out. Given the nature of agriculture in the area, the plan will pick up speed during the winter months.

Both plans are likely to adopt regulations written by the task force, county planner Warren Vaughan said.

Vaughn is seeking Gateway residents to serve on a committee. For information, contact him at 582-3130.