Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner addressed a roomful of
Churchill-area farmers and ranchers Saturday morning regarding the
planning process taking place around the Dutch agricultural
The Gallatin County Planning Department and the Amsterdam Rural
Fire District, as well as a steering committee of roughly 24
residents, have been meeting since last summer to discuss writing a
neighborhood plan, planner Warren Vaughan said. Participants have
outlined such infrastructure as schools, roads, sewer and schools
and now are in the process of identifying community needs.
Neighborhood plans are being written in Gallatin Gateway and the
Four Corners area, communities that are also unincorporated and
fall under the jurisdiction of the county planning process, Vaughan
A neighborhood plan is meant to govern growth by creating
regulations written by area residents that reflect the community,
Skinner said. Large land owners have a lot at stake but “ignoring
the situation” leaves control in someone else’s hands.
“You need something that fits with what is happening here now,”
he said. “Land use is difficult and requires a balance of
Commissioners have been using the county growth policy, adopted
in 2003, as a template for new subdivisions in the area, but the
process has been difficult because subdivision regulations are the
only tools available, Skinner said. County planners are drafting
zoning regulations designed to address density countywide. The
regulations would use a “broad brush” as far as other regulations
go, like setbacks and property use.
But a neighborhood plan would supercede any such zoning, Skinner
said. And for the plan to work, large landowners need to be
“This process is specific to the community,” he said. “All the
communities are different and need to be planned by the residents
who live in them.”
The roughly 35 residents agreed. The group’s questions mostly
revolved around zoning, and some gave testimony about current
growth woes such as traffic.
Last month, the steering committee set preliminary boundaries
for neighborhood plan, and during Saturday’s meeting, carved the
roughly 70-square-mile area into four districts.
Large landowners wanted smaller districts to ensure their voice
will be represented throughout the planning process, which could
last more than a year, Vaughan said. The districts each will have
two to three representatives to whom neighbors can air concerns
that can be discussed during committee meetings twice a month.
As it stands, the Churchill neighborhood boundary will be Grain
Belt Road to the west; Norris Road to the south; the Belgrade
planning jurisdiction to the east and the Manhattan planning
jurisdiction to the north.
The Manhattan doughnut is a township line that roughly runs just
south of White Road. The Belgrade doughnut is a jagged line as the
crow flies that runs south from Thorpe Road to Highline Road, then
stair-steps west along Cameron Bridge Road to Bitterroot Road.
The boundaries of the four districts in the neighborhood plan
are as follows (see map, right).
• The dryland bench on the west from Grain Belt Road to Camp
Creek Road, bounded by Norris Road to the south and the Manhattan
planning jurisdiction to the north.
• Churchill Road to the west and Amsterdam Road to the
• A one-square-mile circle around Churchill.
• The areas south of Amsterdam Road, and east of Camp Creek
Road, with Norris Road forming the southern border.