The County Commission has advanced regulations on floodplain regulations including asking developers to consider channel migration zones when developing in the floodplain.
Commission advances modified floodplain regulations
by Alex Miller Chronicle Staff Writer Mar 21, 2023
Updates to the Gallatin County floodplain regulations are underway after being delayed to include more regulation on development.The Gallatin County Commission advanced changes to the regulation Tuesday. Final approval of the updates will come April 4.
Those changes included cleaning up typos throughout the regulatory document, adding revisions to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s floodplain map and clarifying the floodplain administrator’s permitting power.
Tuesday’s agenda item also included a recommendation from a previous hearing on the regulation updates.
That new change included that developers have to consider channel migration zone maps when wanting to develop in floodplains.
The addition stemmed from comments made by Trout Unlimited that urged the commission to reconsider how it uses land use tools when considering development in a floodplain.
Meg Casey, an attorney for Trout Unlimited, wanted the commissioners to think of floodplain regulations as a tool to help protect health, safety and welfare in floodplain areas.
Other recommendations from the Gallatin Watershed Council for the regulation update were not followed in the county’s latest offering.
Lilly McLane, watershed restoration director for the organization, reiterated that more expansive and stringent watercourse setbacks were the best tool to protect against flood risks. Previously, McLane argued that the setbacks could be applied beyond the mapped floodplain to offer buffers up to 300 feet from a watercourse.
McLane also urged more restrictions to protect riparian vegetation along waterways, like not allowing large-scale removal of riparian vegetation within the floodplain under any circumstance.
Both Casey and McLane hoped that the recommendations that both made it and were shelved would continue a dialogue on stronger floodplain and waterway protections.
The commissioners agreed, but also pointed out the importance of pushing ahead with the updated regulations.
Commissioner Jennifer Boyer said that it was vitally important to think toward the future, and how the county could work to build more resilient systems for the floodplain.
She hoped to build a model that would be “better than any other place in the state.”
Commissioner Zach Brown was hesitant to push the shelved recommendations into the county’s floodplain regulations because they appeared more like zoning regulations.
“If it looks and smells and feels like zoning, it probably is zoning,” Brown said.He said that energy should be focused into applying those changes to the county’s zoning regulations because that avenue could give floodplain and waterway protection more teeth in a “uniform and consistent” manner.
Brown added, however, that there was likely not uniform support to zone areas around streams and tributaries, and that the people who could be impacted would need to to be involved.
Commissioner Scott MacFarlane believed that no one on the commission was resistant to the recommendations, but that the updates needed to get done. He added that Gallatin County is a “very heavy regulation county for good reason,” and that the county has more zoning than other counties in the state.
“We want to be very deliberate and open as we go through a process like this,” MacFarlane said.