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PLACE Project - Common Questions & Comments

In June and July of 2010, Community and Planning Services (formerly Rural Initiatives) staff solicited feedback and suggestions from citizens about the PLACE project (view our Meetings and Events Schedule). CAPS received comments and questions at public meetings as well as through emails and phone calls. Below are responses to the most common and questions and comments about PLACE.

Questions and Comments about the information that was included in PLACE:

QUESTION: Where does Missoula County get the information included in PLACE?

: Information gathered in PLACE comes from over 60 sources including local, state, and regional agencies and organizations. Efforts have been made to ensure that the conservation resource data is from credible, peer-reviewed agencies and organizations. For a complete list of the data sources used in PLACE, check the Conservation Resource Atlas.

QUESTION: What criteria are used to select information for PLACE?
RESPONSE: Generally, conservation resources were included in PLACE if they met the following criteria:
    ▪ The conservation resource is recognized as being potentially vulnerable to
       human and use activities (particularly development);
    ▪ The conservation resource has habitat or location data associated with it that is
       currently mapped and available; and
    ▪ The conservation resource data originates from credible, peer-reviewed sources.

Many conservation resources exist in Missoula County. Not all have been studied or inventoried, and not all have yet been included in PLACE. The PLACE inventory of conservation resources is intended to grow as additional data become available.

QUESTION: Why are certain resource topics and sets of data not included in PLACE?
RESPONSE: Ideally, the PLACE project would be able to map all conservation resources valued by the residents of Missoula County. Unfortunately, this is not possible for a variety of reasons. Not all resources have been studied and inventoried, and some existing information about conservation resources is not mapped.

CAPS staff received many questions and suggestions regarding specific resource topics that are not included in PLACE. Several suggestions are currently under review and consideration for inclusion in the inventory. In other cases, we are currently unable to include suggested resources because information on the topic is unavailable or lacking, or the resource falls outside of the intended scope of PLACE. More details on data topics and sources suggested, and how CAS is handling those suggestions, is available here: Conservation Resource Data Suggestions.

QUESTION: Would the County consider including other suggested resource topics and sources?
RESPONSE: Absolutely. PLACE is a work in progress and will continue to be updated as new data become available. A critical part of the project is review by resource experts and members of the public. The County is continually seeking feedback and would like to hear from you. Let us know about other sources of data or other conservation resources to consider including in future versions of PLACE.

Questions and Comments on how PLACE will be made available to the public:

QUESTION: Will the County create an interactive map so I can view this information from my home computer?
RESPONSE: Staff is currently investigating the concept of creating an online mapping application for the PLACE project. A web-based tool would allow users to navigate to specific areas and properties within the County while viewing the conservation resources that are mapped in those locations. Currently, individual resource maps can be viewed on the PLACE website, in the Conservation Resource Atlas.

QUESTION: Will the County provide the GIS data used to create these maps to other parties?
RESPONSE: The majority of the information used in the PLACE project comes directly from other sources, such as state or federal agencies. Generally, it is best to contact the original source to download the data directly as they will have the most complete and up-to-date data. Links to websites and/or contact information for accessing such data are available in the References for the Conservation Resource Atlas.

QUESTION: Where can I find a hard copy of the PLACE maps?
RESPONSE: Hard copies of the Conservation Resource Atlas are available in public libraries in Missoula, Condon, Frenchtown, and Seeley Lake. Copies are also available at the CAPS Office (317 Woody Street, across from the courthouse in Missoula) and in the County Commissioner's Office (200 West Broadway, in the courthouse annex).

Questions and Comments about the purpose and uses of PLACE:

QUESTION: How will PLACE be used by the County in the subdivision review process?
RESPONSE: State law requires that counties consider the impacts of subdivisions on various conservation resources. PLACE consolidates existing information from a variety of sources, making the information easily accessible for county staff, landowners and developers to use to identify conservation resources on or near a property that is being considered for subdivision. The identification of a conservation resource on or near a property proposed for subdivision does not do more than serve as a “flag” to alert landowners and county staff to resources that may potentially be affected and indicates where further investigation may be necessary. PLACE is not a substitute for site-specific review or consultation with local experts. The PLACE project is intended to aid in the planning process so that development may be designed in a way that conserves important resources while also allowing for necessary growth.

QUESTION: I can imagine additional uses for the information gathered in PLACE…is the County interested in hearing other ideas?
RESPONSE: Yes. CAPS hopes that the information gathered in PLACE can support a variety of efforts and stimulate new conversation about resource conservation. Landowners, conservation professionals, development professionals, and others are encouraged to let CAPS know of ways PLACE might be used and how the information can be used to support community needs. For example, local trails committees and watershed groups may want to use this information to inform their trails planning and education efforts.

QUESTION: Will PLACE be used for future planning efforts and analysis?
RESPONSE: When communities are interested in planning projects, Rural Initiatives anticipates that the information found in PLACE will be used to assist those local planning efforts, along with other pertinent information. PLACE serves as an inventory of cultural and natural resources in Missoula County. This information can be helpful in a variety of planning efforts and analysis, but is not intended to be used without additional information or as a substitute for local planning processes and analyses.

QUESTION: Is PLACE an update to the 1992 Inventory of Conservation Resources for Missoula County, MT? How will the Missoula Board of County Commissioners officially recognize PLACE?
RESPONSE: PLACE is similar to the 1992 Inventory in that it largely focuses on assessing conservation resources in the county, but is not intended to be an official update or replacement of that document.

Commissioners currently direct county staff to use credible, objective information in project review and planning efforts, and PLACE will now serve as a more efficient tool for such purposes. Many of the maps and data compiled in PLACE are already used for project review and planning. PLACE consolidates information from a variety of credible sources and locations in an effort to make project review more efficient and transparent for county commissioners and staff, residents, and development and conservation professionals.

QUESTION: How has or how will PLACE affect my private property rights?
RESPONSE: PLACE can serve as a resource of information for you about your area and your land. PLACE does not affect property rights. It is a tool to help identify conservation resources that may be affected by conservation or development projects. PLACE helps identify resources that may need to be considered in a subdivision proposal or an Open Space Bond project proposal.

QUESTION: Where does the funding for PLACE come from?
RESPONSE: PLACE is a project of Missoula County Community and Planning Services. CAPS is directed by the Board of County Commissioners to address issues of concern in rural communities and is funded through the annual County budget process.

QUESTION: Why was PLACE created?
RESPONSE: Missoula County initiated PLACE to better meet its responsibilities and obligations to the public. The project will promote more consistent and effective review of subdivision proposals and Open Space Bond projects. Much of the information included in PLACE is used by the County for both of these purposes but PLACE compiles this information and makes it easily accessible for landowners, development professionals, County officials, and for other interested parties.

Missoula County is required by state law to work with landowners who wish to subdivide their property. The Montana Subdivision and Platting Act requires counties to consider the impacts of a subdivision on: agriculture, agricultural water user facilities, local services, the natural environment, wildlife, wildlife habitat, and public health and safety.

In addition, County government is responsible for ensuring that tax-payer money is spent wisely on Open Space Bond projects, and that the conservation projects meet the purposes of the fund. Projects are considered according to their potential for offering conservation of the following values: wildlife habitat/native plant communities, water quality, working landscapes, public access/recreational trails, scenic or historic values, other unique/exceptional values, and public values.

QUESTION: Is the PLACE project funded, authorized or endorsed by the United Nations?
RESPONSE: No.  There is no relationship or agreement between Missoula County and the United Nations on this or any other project handled by Missoula County.

Questions and Comments about public involvement and how to learn more about the PLACE project:

QUESTION: How did Missoula County involve the public in planning the PLACE project?
RESPONSE: In 2009, CAPS staff met with a variety of county, community, and agency groups to get input on the scope and goals of the project, as well as to obtain technical review of the data and maps. During June and July of 2010, PLACE project information was presented at local community councils in Seeley Lake, Lolo, West Valley, Bonner, and Condon; as well as in Missoula and in the Potomac/Greenough area. These meetings were advertised in local newsletters and through local community groups. Visit the PLACE website to view the Meetings and Events Schedule or Project History.

During these meetings, CAPS staff solicited input about PLACE and how the information might be used. Residents were asked to identify additional information that should be included and provided feedback about ways to make the information in PLACE more available to the public.

PLACE is a work in progress and comments and questions are always welcome. Please contact Missoula County Community and Planning Services or visit our websites for updates on the project.

QUESTION: How can residents of Missoula County stay up-to-date on the progress of the PLACE project?
RESPONSE: CAPS will share the conservation resources data and the Conservation Resources Atlas with you as PLACE is being developed. Your feedback and input are important and welcome. Contact CAPS through one the methods provided below to keep updated:

Office address: 317 Woody Street, across from the County Courthouse in downtown Missoula
Mailing address: 200 W. Broadway, Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 258-3432
Email: (send us an email to be added to a mailing list to receive periodic updates about the PLACE project)

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