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Commission denies request to rezone land for student housing – Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Residents from the greater Bozeman community, with a majority from the Figgins and Alder Creek subdivisions, filled the Bozeman City Commission meeting last night to express their opinions against a proposed Student Housing development by the national student housing chain Campus Crest, considered for acreage at the end of 11th & Opportunity Way.  The complex required a rezone of the area to R-4 zoning and would have included egress past the Morningstar Elementary school.  After hours of comments, and several meeting extensions, the commissioners voted down the rezone in a 1-4 vote at 12:30am.  In my humble opinion this was an excellent choice.  Thank you to Erin Schattauer from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle for tweeting updates of the meeting throughout the night.

Commission denies request to rezone land for student housing – Bozeman Daily Chronicle

by ERIN SCHATTAUER, Staff Writer

Bozeman City Commissioners denied a request Monday night to rezone about 16 acres of land being considered for a 600-bed college student housing development.

Four commissioners — including Mayor Jeff Krauss, Deputy Mayor Carson Taylor and commissioners Cyndy Andrus and Chris Mehl — voted against rezoning the land located south of Opportunity Way and east of South 11th Avenue from mostly low- to medium-density residential to high-density residential. Commissioner I-Ho Pomeroy was the only commissioner who voted for it.

Because enough people living nearby submitted written protest to the zoning change, a supermajority vote of 4-1 would have been needed to pass the change, according to state law.

Some commissioners were swayed in part by the dozens of people who stepped up to the podium Monday night to oppose the zoning change.

“As much as I like to govern by theory, don’t forget I’m here to represent people,” Krauss said. “It is representative democracy.”

The “jumble” of housing that would result if the land was rezoned is not in line with what the city is trying to do as far as growth is concerned, Krauss said.

“It’s almost like we’re building with Legos and someone dropped a cinder block on the Legos,” he said of the proposal.

Taylor said there are several reasons why he wouldn’t vote in favor of the proposal.

“I didn’t hear any pretty darn good reasons for changing the zoning,” he said. He added that there is a district already zoned for student housing that hasn’t been developed yet, and they should wait to see how that impacts the housing needs.

Andrus said she would not vote for the change because it is not compatible with the current area and it would change the character of the district, not enhance it.

Mehl said he didn’t think the proposal met the proper criteria, but warned residents that they will see growth in their neighborhoods in the coming years.

“Traffic is coming your way. It may not be as much because we didn’t approve this, but it’s coming,” he said.

Pomeroy said the decision was difficult for her. Torn between the need for more student housing and the concerns of homeowners, she at first tried to abstain from voting, saying she couldn’t. Prompted by Krauss to vote on the matter, she voted in favor of it, noting that her vote would not count anyway because four members of the commission had voted against it.

The large crowd of residents from the nearby Figgins and Alder Creek neighborhoods, who rallied to oppose the change and remained after midnight to hear the decision, erupted into applause when the commission voted it down.

While the proposal before commissioners was just on rezoning the land, the plan came with a proposal to build a student housing complex on what is now farmland.

Alex Eyssen, vice president of development for Campus Crest, spoke on behalf of rezoning the land when the applicant was asked to step forward by the commission. The land is currently owned by Gene Graf, who also stepped up to speak during the public comment period.

Graf said he was approached by Campus Crest about the project.

“When we looked at the project, it seemed to fit with the stated desire of the city,” he said. “It’s not a halfway house. It’s a place for students who are paying $20,000 to $40,000 to go to the university.”

But some residents of the surrounding neighborhoods disagreed. About 60 people spoke against the proposal with concerns ranging from traffic to property values. Others said the proposal goes against the community plan.

“You are our community builders. We are your community. Please hear us tonight,” one man pleaded.

One woman who has lived in the Figgins neighborhood for 24 years pointed to other student housing projects that are already in the works.

“Once the approved student housing is built and occupied, see what happens then,” she said. “Let’s get those places filled and occupied and see what our needs are at that point.”

“If you do vote yes it will be obvious to me that your vote is for sale,” one man told commissioners.

“It’s not a healthy fit for MSU,” resident Megan Snodgrass said, adding that Campus Crest features a red cup as its mascot on its website.

From people who have lived in the area for decades to those who just recently purchased homes, droves of residents lined up to speak. For more than three hours, commissioners listened as they voiced their opinions.

Residents living in the Figgins and Alder Creek neighborhoods have been vocal in their opposition of the plan since learning about it. They said rezoning the property and building student housing would hurt the neighborhoods and impact safety, traffic and property values. They were also concerned about the proposed complex’s proximity to Morning Star Elementary School.

At a zoning meeting, the co-founder of Campus Crest, Mike Hartnett, proposed plans for the Grove at Bozeman, which he said would provide fully furnished two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The plan called for building out South 11th Avenue with an entrance off of the street that will house a clubhouse and outdoor amenities surrounded by 12 apartment-style buildings.

Campus Crest operates 46 Grove properties across the country, according to its website.

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