Belgrade City Council approves zoning change on split vote
Freddy Monares, staff writer, Belgrade News Nov 9, 2017
Belgrade City Council members in front of a packed crowd on Monday gave final approval on a three-two split vote to a controversial zoning change that will allow a developer to build 93 town homes in the northern part of the Henson Subdivision on the city’s northwest side.
Council members Jim Simon and Mark Criner were the two no-votes for the zoning change.The proposed area for the development sits at the end of Jackrabbit Lane up against a conservation easement to the north that blocks further development. The zoning regulations, prior to the approved change, allowed for the construction of 39 single-family homes.The change now allows the developer to build a total of 311 homes in the entire subdivision by the time construction is complete, which would be 62 more homes than what zoning allowed for prior to the change.
A crowd of residents at the meeting all said they were concerned with the additional traffic this would bring to an already congested area. They also asked how this proposal would impact taxpayers in the city, and if the council had plans to soften the impact of new students that would be attending schools in Belgrade.Most of those who testified at Monday’s meeting showed up to first hearing of the zoning change on Nov. 7. There were a few names, though, that were new at the meeting.
Belgrade resident Cindy Tirrell said she was concerned the developers were suggesting the change simply to get more money out of the subdivision. She asked if money was being put aside to deal with the schools that were already “bursting at the seams with kids.”
“When we expect this many homes, it puts a burden on the taxpayers,” Tirrell said.There were at least two in the crowd, though, who did agree with the zoning change. River Rock resident Walt Derzy had previously testified in favor for the change, and did so again on Monday.
He said the zoning change would allow for homes that are affordable, and would give young families the opportunity to purchase their first home.“It’s going to make a big difference for families that want to come here,” he said.
Erik Resel, a Belgrade resident who established a petition after the council’s gave preliminary of the zoning change, said 240 people had responded in opposition to decision. He said people in the city are busy and couldn’t get as involved as council members would like to see.
“I know it’s not a huge number in proportion to 8,000 people (that live in Belgrade), but in a community that seems to not be as involved as we might like, that’s a fair number that have chosen to be involved,” Resel said.
Before voting against the zoning change, council member Mark Criner said if the city doesn’t allow development within its borders, the county would approve them. When that happens, he said, the residents of the subdivisions on the outskirts of the city would come and use the resources of Belgrade anyway.
“People need to start somewhere. And if we price them out, then we’re no better than other places,” Criner added.Council member Kristine Menicucci previously said 200 signatures wouldn’t sway her vote on the zoning change, since her decision would affect the rest of the city. On Monday Menicucci stood by that, and said the council was trying to control growth.
She posed the question to those in attendance at the meeting, what do they want Belgrade to look like?
“Do we want it to look like Bozeman? Where you shut out everyone. And that’s my concern.” Menicucci said, and added, “We’re building Belgrade for everyone.”