Planning Division

Welcome to the City of Helena, Planning Division

The Planning Division has primary responsibility for the coordination of long-range planning such as the Growth Policy and assisting neighborhoods with developing Neighbor Plans.  It also administers the city’s Subdivision Regulations, Zoning Ordinance, and other appropriate city ordinances to preserve neighborhood character and enhance the city's quality of life. Additionally, the division provides education of the community on the importance of sound planning for responsible growth and other city resources such as its historic and cultural resources.

Planning Division staff serve as a resource to elected and appointed officials and the community at-large. Additionally, staff serves to support the Helena/Lewis and Clark Consolidated Planning Board, City of Helena Zoning Commission, Board of Adjustment, and ADA Committee.

Planning Division Staff

Planning Division
316 N. Park Avenue, Room 445
Helena, MT 59623
406-447-8490
Fax: 406-447-8460

Office Hours
Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Annexation

    Annexation

    Annexation is a process through which individuals can bring unincorporated parcels of land into the city.  The City of Helena may annex unincorporated parcels to provide for orderly growth, adequate provision of municipal services, and equal benefits to both the annexed territory and existing city properties.  The most commonly used method is Annexation by Petition (79-2-4601 et. Seq., MCA).

    Click here  to be re-routed to the Annexation by Petition Application.

    Boards & Committees

    Boards & Committees

    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance Committee

    The ADA Compliance Committee serves as an advisory committee to the Helena City Commission to determine reasonable accommodations as stated in the Americans for Disabilities Act. The city of Helena's ADA Coordinator, Ellie Ray, provides staff assistance to the ADA Committee and can be contacted for further information at 316 North Park Avenue, Room 445, Helena, MT  59623, or by phone at (406) 447-8490, or by email at citycommunitydevelopment@helena.gov.

    For more information about ADA federal regulations, click here.

    Board of Adjustments (BOA)

    The Board of Adjustments consists of five (5) members appointed by the mayor for three (3) year terms, subject to confirmation by the City Commission.  The BOA deliberates on requests for variances from the City of Helena Zoning Ordinance to address any undue hardship caused by city zoning regulations on building a new structure(s), rehabilitating an existing structure(s), or expanding the existing structure(s) on such property.  The requests are brought forth by citizen applicants and presented to the BOA by Planning Division staff.  See FAQs for more information about zoning variances.

    As stated in Chapter 5, Section 2 of City of Helena’s Zoning Ordinance, the Board of Adjustment may, after public notice and hearing, approve, conditionally approve, or deny the request to vary or modify the following requirements:

    • Lot line setback requirements;
    • Lot coverage and area requirements;
    • Building height;
    • Parking and loading space requirements;
    • Location, height, area and number of signs; and
    • Landscaping requirements.

    Click here to be re-routed to the Zoning Variance Application.

    NOTE: Application deadlines are once monthly on the FIRST BUSINESS DAY OF THE MONTH for the public hearing date on the FIRST TUESDAY of the month following the application.

    Helena/Lewis & Clark County Consolidated Planning Board

    As described in Title 2, Chapter 6, Section 3 of Helena City Code, the Planning Board serves as an advisory board to the City Commission on major subdivision applications and revisions to the City of Helena Growth Policy and Subdivision Regulations. Planning Division staff provide assistance to the Board by developing reports that detail the findings of facts and provide recommendations for approval with or without conditions or denial and present their findings for subdivision applications at a Planning Board public hearing. Additionally, Planning Division staff assist in the update and development of existing and future policies and regulations pertaining to subdivision and long range planning. 

    Zoning Commission

    As described in Title 2, Chapter 6, Section 3 of Helena City Code, the Zoning Commission serves as an advisory board to the City Commission on applications for Conditional Use Permits, Zone Change, Pre-Zoning prior to Annexation, and revisions to the city of Helena Zoning Ordinance. Planning Division staff provide assistance to the Zoning Commission by developing reports with recommendations for approval with or without conditions or denial. Staff presents the findings, recommendations, and analysis at a Zoning Commission public hearing. Additionally, staff provides technical assistance in the update of existing regulations and development of future regulations that pertain to zoning. Click here for more information about city zoning.

    Community Decay Complaints

    Community Decay Complaints

    Title 7, Chapter 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”.

    Community Decay Complaint Form

    For more information about community decay complaints, please contact the Community Development Department at (406) 447-8490 or email citycommunitydevelopment@helenamt.gov.

    Subdivisions

    Subdivisions

    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.

    Below are the three Platting Categories and their descriptions.  Please note, a Pre-Application is required for all major land use activities.  All subdivision applications have a two-step process that include a Preliminary Plat and a Final Plat.  Applications that exceed the Preliminary Plat time frame, may request an extension using this application: Preliminary Plat Time Extension Application.

    Major Subdivisions

    In accordance to Helena City Code 12-2 a major subdivision is any subdivision that creates more than 5 lots from a single lot.  Major Subdivisions are heard by the Planning Board prior to consideration by the City Commission.  Major Subdivisions are sometimes done in phases which would follow an additional phase subdivision process.  For more information, contact City Planning Division at (406) 447-8490.

    Minor Subdivisons

    In accordance to Helena City Code 12-5 minor subdivision is any division of land that creates 5 or fewer lots. When an amended plat relocates the boundaries of 6 or more lots the plat is processed utilizing the minor subdivision procedure.

    Exempt Amended Plats/Certificate of Survey

    (Plats Exempt from Subdivision Review but Require Surveying)

    More information on Exempt Amended Plats can be found in the Helena City Code Title 12, Chapter 2, Section 18.

    • Exempt Amended Plat/Certificate of Survey Application (PDF)

    Zoning

    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.

    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

     

    Types of Zoning

    Conditional Use Permits (CUP)

    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. 

    • Conditional Use Permit (CUP) Application (PDF)

    Pre-Zone

    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 to analyze and assign an appropriate zoning designation. The Pre-Zone designation goes into effect when the property is annexed.

    • Pre-Zoning Application (PDF)

    Zoning Change

    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.

    • Zone Change Application (PDF)

    Zoning Variances

    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.

    • Zoning Variance Application (PDF)

    Zoning Violations

    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). 

    • Zoning Violation Complaint Form (Link)

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the different methods of annexation?

    The city of Helena may choose to annex any property in accordance with the provisions of the following state statutes:

    A request to have property included in the Helena city limits in order to receive city services is also known as Annexation by Petition, the most common form of annexation.   In order to understand the requirements for annexation by petition, please refer to 6-5 of the Helena City Code, relating to the extension of the Water and Wastewater Service Area.  This action is often done in conjunction with the annexation of properties that are not receiving City water and/or wastewater services.

    What are some conditions for annexation?

    The city may decide to condition the approval of the annexation. In the case where the property to be annexed is not developed, the conditions of approval includes a requirement for a development agreement prior to the issuance of a building permit. In the event the property is developed and contains public improvements that are not constructed to city standards, the city requires an annexation agreement.  The agreement specifies which public improvements are to be upgraded and/or installed to city standards, and a time period and mechanism to finance the construction and installation of those improvements.  In any case, all public improvements, whether existing or proposed, must meet city standards.

    All properties that are annexed into the City of Helena must have gone through the pre-zoning process. For more information about pre-zoning, please click on the following link: Zoning

    What is a Subdivision?

    MCA 76-3-103 defines a subdivision as the division of a piece of land into two or more lots. The regulations are set forth in the City of Helena SUBDIVISION ORDINANCE, Title 12 of Helena City Code.

    The purpose of this title is to establish a subdivision review process that is designed to achieve the objectives of the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act, Title 76, Chapter 3, Montana Code Annotated (MCA). The process of dividing land into parcels is a necessary and important function in the growth of a community. When, where, and how development occurs establishes land division patterns for the community that will last for generations. The subdivision review process allows the community to take a close look at proposed developments before final action by the governing body. The City of Helena 2001 Growth Policy provides guidance for subdivision reviews. (Title 12-1-2)

    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.