Letter to editor icon 3

This Monday (Jan. 13), the Helena Commission may rezone most neighborhoods to allow higher buildings, increased lot coverage, and more dwelling units. This already happens, but with a public variance process.

Similar changes were rejected in the 2008 zoning overhaul. Residents raised concerns about privacy, sunshine for gardening, traffic, solar access, views, emergency access, and other items affecting their home value and quality of life. The changes will be efficient for developers and increase infill. They will not always benefit existing residents, some of whom might look outside Helena City Limits where six times as many single-family homes are built most years—not a win for density or tax base for emergency services.

There were unintended consequences from the 2008 changes. One of them was a streamlined conditional use permit (CUP) process that is too permissive; something the commission is also addressing this Monday (other examples at MattElsaesser.com).

The commission should reject the proposed zoning changes, make changes one neighborhood at a time, or at least require a CUP for the new rules. Housing can still change, but residents should be able to raise their concerns and the city should address them.

Details for Monday’s 6 pm meeting are at HelenaMT.gov

Matt Elsaesser


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