What is Zoning?

Zoning shapes the way Helena appears and functions. The city’s Zoning Ordinance determines the size and use of buildings, where they are located, and neighborhood densities. Along with a city's power in subdivision and annexation proceedings, zoning is a key tool for carrying out its Growth Policy.

The city of Helena Zoning Ordinance is a blueprint for the development of the city. The Ordinance has two parts: zoning text and a zoning map. The text establishes zoning districts and sets forth regulations governing their land use and development. The maps show the locations and boundaries of the zoning districts.

What types of zoning districts are there?

Land in the city is divided into several basic zoning district categories: residential (R), commercial (B), and manufacturing (CLM/M). The basic district categories are further divided into a variety of lower-, medium-, and higher-density residential, commercial, and manufacturing districts. Any of these districts may in turn be overlaid by special purpose zoning districts (such as Transitional Standards) tailored to the unique characteristics of certain neighborhoods. These overlay districts modify the controls of the underlying districts.

For more information about city of Helena’s zoning, please click on the following links:

City of Helena Zoning Ordinance
City of Helena Zoning Map
GIS Interactive Map

What is a Conditional Use Permit?

A Conditional Use Permit (CUP) can be obtained for uses described in Title 11 of the Helena City Code that are in addition to uses permitted by right in a particular zoning district. The CUP process is intended to provide additional review to address individual and specific needs and prevent unduly negative impacts resulting from a conditional use. Helena’s Zoning Commission and City Commission review all CUP requests through the public hearing process. 

Can I change my Zoning District?

In accordance with Helena’s Zoning Ordinance, Title 11 of Helena City Code, all properties located within the city of Helena are in a designated zoning district. With each zoning district comes a set of vested rights and regulations that govern the development of the property. The zoning designation for any property can be changed through the zone change process. The Zoning Commission and City Commission review all zone change requests through the public hearing process.

Do I need a zoning designation before Annexation?

Prior to any property being annexed into the city of Helena, the property must have gone through the pre-zoning process which allows the city of analyze and assign an appropriate zoning designation for property annexing into the city. The Pre-Zone designation goes into effect when the property is annexed.

How long does it take?

The city of Helena is committed to processing your application in a professional and timely manner. You can prevent unnecessary delays by submitting all necessary paperwork no later than the designated deadline and by following the guidelines described in the step-by-step process, which follows. Processing time varies on a case-by-case basis.


Community Decay Complaints

Title 7-11 of the Helena City Code defines Community Decay as: “Any public nuisance created by allowing rubble, debris, junk, refuse, landscaping debris or other matter to accumulate, resulting in conditions that are injurious to health, are indecent, are offensive to the senses, or which obstruct the free use and enjoyment of adjacent property so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or the values of property. This definition does not apply to properly permitted construction and/or demolition projects during the time any necessary permits are in effect. This definition does not include persons servicing, manufacturing or processing materials, goods or products on lots in public view, so long as the materials used in the normal operation of the business are neatly stacked or piled. This definition does not include normal residential maintenance or landscaping projects”.

Completed complaint forms must be signed and returned to the Planning Division in order for a full investigation of a community decay complaint to occur. For more information about community decay complaints, please contact the Community Development Director, Sharon Haugen, at (406) 447-8490 (communitydevelopment@helenamt.gov).

Zoning Violation Complaints

Title 11-33 of the Helena City Code outlines the process for registering a zoning violation complaint.

Completed complaint forms must be signed and returned to the Planning Division in order for a full investigation of a zoning violation complaint to occur. For more information about zoning violation complaints, please contact  the Community Development Director, Sharon Haugen, at (406) 447-8490 (communitydevelopment@helenamt.gov). 

Site Distance Triangle

Title 11-2-8 Section E of the Helena City Code states that “no buildings, structures, solar greenhouses, off street parking spaces, fences, walls or landscaping shall be constructed or allowed to grow on any corner lot so as to impede vision of vehicular traffic using the adjoining right of way within the sight distance triangle.” This section of the Ordinance defines how to determine a sight distance triangle. For more information about site distance triangle, please contact David Knoepke at (406) 447-8099 (dknoepke(at)helenamt.gov). 


What is a Zoning Variance?

Provisions of 11-5 of the Helena City Code allow for zoning variances to be requested by any property owner for a variance from the zoning regulations affecting his or her property. This process is intended to be special exceptions to the terms of this title when granted in harmony with its general purposes and intent, and are intended to avoid undue hardship when strict and literal enforcement of this title is inappropriate.  The city of Helena Board of Adjustment holds monthly public hearings to review zoning variance requests.

Scheduled hearings and meetings for the Board of Adjustments with associated agendas and minutes from adjourned meetings are available on the Community Development Department calendar.