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Concept of local control takes center stage in talk over growth in Park County

A group of people gather in front of the City-County building.
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
A group of people gather in front of the City-County building.

Two different perspectives on local control are brewing in Park County, home to Livingston, Chico hot springs and Yellowstone National Park’s only year-round gateway.

Just over a dozen people gathered in front of the City-County building in Livingston on March 4, some holding cardboard signs with slogans like, “Locals for Local Control,” and “Protect Our Local Voice.”

They’re campaigning against the repeal of the county’s Growth Policy, a set of land use and resource policies and objectives that help guide planning and development in Park County. One of the organizers is a Livingston resident and former owner of Chico hot springs, Colin Davis.

“It’s really back to a grassroots sort of organization that believes we need a growth policy to protect our way of life,” he said.

The growth policy reaffirms land rights, prioritizes infrastructure and supports affordable housing development. Policy supporters say they are concerned its repeal would deprive the county of direction and a tool in grant making and open it up to exploitation of its resources.

With more than 17,000 residents, Park County is growing quickly. State data show 2019 to 2022 accounted for half of Park County’s total ten-year increase in population.

Park county residents this June will vote on whether to repeal the current policy, and separately, whether to vote on future Growth Policies.

County resident Ann Hallowell proposed both referendums and gathered the more-than 1,000 signatures needed to include them on the ballot.

“I think that when everyone gets to vote, no matter how it turns out, you all feel like you did have a say in the process,” she said.

Hallowell explains she wants to make sure the people who live in the county outside city limits have an opportunity to provide input.

“And it also has to do with our property rights and how we interpret the way other people are interpreting the growth policy that they end up with,” Hallowell said.

Park County Commissioners updated the Growth Policy in 2017, and county residents have the opportunity to weigh in through public hearings and comments.

In front of the City-County building in Livingston, Colin Davis with the campaign against repeal says the document’s removal would leave the region without community guidance during a time of rapid growth.

“All you have to do is look over your shoulder at Bozeman and see how almost instantaneous that growth is, but even in this valley since COVID, the valley’s exploded.”

You can find out more about Park County elections on the county website.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.