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BDC – Bozeman Commission approves growth policy, emphasizing density

Bozeman’s growth policy is the basis for future land development and development decisions in the city. This plan is adjusted every 10 years or so. The commissioners adopted a new plan just this week.

Bozeman City Commission approves growth policy, emphasizing density
By Nora Shelly Chronicle Staff Writer Nov 18, 2020

Bozeman city commissioners voted 4-1 this week to approve the growth policy, which largely leans on increased density, infill and expanding the city’s borders to manage growth over the next two decades.

The new growth policy replaces the 2009 community plan. The policy isn’t law by itself — it changes no zoning or building regulations — but it will be the basis for future land-use and development decisions. With Bozeman’s housing stock already straining the city’s needs and projected growth to add nearly 27,000 people through 2045, the plan emphasizes residential development within or close to the city limits coupled with nearby commercial and workplace development.

“We cannot control our growth, but this growth policy gives us guidelines on how we can manage it …wisely,” said Commissioner I-Ho Pomeroy.

The plan also focuses on increasing multi-modal transportation options, creating walk-able neighborhoods, preserving parkland and open space and bolstering the city’s resiliency measures when it comes to impacts from things like climate change crises or, say, another global pandemic.

The two-year process to draft the plan came down to the wire during Tuesday’s meeting, when amendments were added to include a new land use designation in the future-looking land use map, slight wording changes and adding a graphic with information on “missing-middle housing,” which are housing types in between single-family homes and large apartment buildings.

At work sessions in October, commissioners suggested revisions, including adding a section addressing the fundamental question of whether Bozeman has to grow, increasing residential options near major employees and making the plan more readable.

City staff also added a new section to the future land use map, which is a forward-looking map that lays out the city’s desired uses for land in and around the city should the land be redeveloped.

After several commissioners brought up concerns that the draft map left out some industrial uses, like technology industries or research and development offices, city staff added in a “maker space mixed use” designation for several parcels of land. The new designation is aimed to bridge the gap between lighter and heavier industrial uses, city development manager Chris Saunders said.

“Part of the discussion, as you may all remember, is the fact that we have several different elements relating to commercial and business employment type uses at different scales and the industrial only had one option,” Saunders said. “So maker space mixed use opens that door a little bit wider to be a little more nuanced.”

At previous meetings, Commissioner Michael Wallner pushed for more direct language on maintaining the character of the city’s neighborhoods. The final draft states neighborhood character should be recognized and honored, and that transition areas between different neighborhoods and uses should be preserved.

Wallner still voted against the plan, citing concerns he heard from both Bozeman developers and residents concerned about neighborhood preservation.

“I can’t support a public policy rewrite that fails to meet the needs of two different constituent groups that are concerned about preserving neighborhoods, neighborhood character, the history of Bozeman, as well as not meeting the needs of developers,” Wallner said.

Commissioner Jennifer Madgic, who joined the commission last month after being on the planning board during the plan’s drafting process, said it was important to the board that the plan support mixed-use neighborhoods with a variety of housing types.

Madgic — who worked in planning for Gallatin County for years — and other commissioners noted the city will have to work with the county commission on larger scale land-use matters.

Bozeman’s growth, Madgic said, is about more than just the city.

“We live in this desirable place and we see the impact of growth on our environment, on our quality of life and so forth. And if we really want to be wise stewards of the land and wise stewards of Montana, it makes sense to put the growth that is coming here into urban areas, to densify where people live,” Madgic said. “I really believe our cities need to get bigger and accommodate that growth, not the countryside.”

During public comment, two planning board members, Mark Egge and Jerry Pape, spoke to the need to follow the plan’s passage with actual regulatory measures, something several commissioners echoed. Some of the plan’s objectives could be addressed in zoning map revisions, while others fall under the city’s unified development code, which is periodically updated.

“It is incumbent upon us as the commission to make sure that we are working to give this document the teeth underneath it that it needs so we can accomplish the things that are laid out in this plan,” Mayor Cyndy Andrus said. “Now we need to take that next step and work on the things that help us actually move this plan forward.”

Source: Bozeman City Commission approves growth policy, emphasizing density