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City awards consultant contract for updated Growth Policy, and creates steering committee

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Posted at 3:48 PM, May 22, 2024

GREAT FALLS — The City of Great Falls is beginning the process of updating its growth policy.

At Tuesday night’s city commission meeting, commissioners unanimously approved awarding a consultant contract to Orion Planning & Design in the amount of $371,184 to spearhead what is expected to be an 18-month project.

City awards consultant contract for updated Growth Policy

The money will be drawn from federal CARES Act funds including $300,00 from the City, $30,000 from the Montana Community Reinvestment Plan Act, and $50,000 from Great Falls Public Schools.

The city received six proposals from consultancy firms including Orion, Burian and Associates; Cushing Terrell; ECOnorthwest; Houseal Lavigne; and SJC Alliance.

The recommendation of Orion was based on previous work in similar communities in and outside Montana including Kalispell and Butte. 

The Growth Policy is an official public document that is intended to guide social, physical, environmental, and economic growth and development of the City.

Great Falls hasn’t updated its growth policy since 2013. 

City Commission meeting (May 21, 2024)

Lonnie Hill, the city’s Deputy Planning Director, said the goal is to present an updated growth policy by the end of 2025.

"We want to engage the public. And some of those conversations are going to be hard. We're going to get people in a room who may not think alike, and that's our goal,” Hill said. “So we want these conversations to occur. We want the engagement to happen. And that process alone should take a while to make sure that we're not leaving any stone unturned.”

Commissioners approved 14 appointments to the city’s Growth Policy Steering Committee from a pool of 58 applicants. Those appointees are:

1. Rick Tryon, City Commissioner
2. Heather Hoyer, GFPS Superintendent
3. Brett Doney, GFDA CEO
4. TBD, Malmstrom Air Force Base Representative
5. Katie Hanning – Housing & Development
6. Kris Cron – Business & Industry #1
7. Michael Hallahan – Business & Industry #2
8. Brian Kaufman – Business & Industry #3
9. Tom Heisler – Agriculture & Environment
10. Abigail Hill – Public Health & Medical
11. Dr. Stephanie Erdmann – Higher Education & Adult Training
12. Spencer Woith – GF Citizen Interests #1
13. Carol Bronson – GF Citizen Interests #2
14. Wayne Klind – GF Citizen Interests #3

The Growth Policy Steering Committee's objective is to ensure the involvement of a diverse range of groups, entities, disciplines, and citizens throughout the Growth Policy process.

Applicants for the committee were solicited several weeks ago (link).

Members will provide input and feedback at each stage of the planning process, including the preliminary plan vision and goals, guiding principles, base concept development, strategies, element policies, priority actions, implementation strategies, and recommendations.

From the city website:

What is a Growth Policy?
  • A growth policy is a document that provides data and analysis AND how the data and analysis pertain to the existing condition of the community.
  • It is a strategic roadmap, including goals and objectives that are measurable, realistic, and provide residents with tangible results.
  • It should be used every day – Your copy of it should be worn out!
  • It is the PEOPLE’S PLAN!
The Growth Policy Timeline
  • March - April 2024 -> Consultant selection
  • May 2024 -> Begin public outreach
  • May 2024 - November 2025 -> Growth policy drafting, editing, and revising.
  • November 2025 -> Adopt new growth policy